Michael Heizer’s “Double Negative” (1969), located two hours northeast of Las Vegas, is a quintessential piece of the Land Art canon. Yet if you don’t have a clear image of what you’re looking for, you may not find it — this is no “Spiral Jetty.”
Beginning on Wednesday, the emails and text messages started pouring in. “You’re in The New Yorker!” was the notion of the generally congratulatory remarks. This was not untrue. But, it also wasn’t entirely accurate. My friend and former studio neighbor, Hope Gangloff, painted a portrait of me painting for her new current exhibition and a reproduction of it appeared in the “Goings On About Town” section. Although she adeptly captured my likeness, the portrait is very much Hope’s world. Granted, I am more or less wearing what I paint during the sultry New York summer months — cut-off skinny jeans, black socks, beige suede loafers (basically ragged clothes) — and it’s my lanky contrapposto.
Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” (1970) is arguably the most famous, least directly experienced work in the Land Art cannon. Most know the work from iconic aerial photographs, some by Smithson’s accompanying text and some by his weird and monotonous film. Built in 1970, the 6,650 tons of black basalt paved in a 1,500 foot long counter-clockwise coil was underwater and invisible for nearly 30 years until the early 2000’s. During the first days of 2011, artist Suzanne Stroebe and I ventured into the frigid landscape of Northern Utah to Rozel Point, the home of Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake. On January 2, Smithson’s birthday (he would have been 73 and coincidentally died in 1973), we visited the site for the afternoon and returned two days later to spend an incredible 23 hours with the jetty and its lunar-like, desolate landscape.