Category Archives: natural materials

Preserving the Art of Earth: Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”

Preserving the Art of Earth - Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”Earth was the artist’s first canvas. Before paint supplies and art tools, individuals used natural settings as means to document history and express cultural identity.

After tools to create paintings, sculptures, and sketches came into use, some artists – like the late Robert Smithson – still chose to create massive artistic marvels using natural elements. Earthwork, as it is commonly known, consists of large scale artwork that is set in nature and composed of the elements.

The Spiral Jetty, located at Rozel Point in Great Salt Lake, Utah is the defining earthwork of Smithson. In 1970, he used “mud, precipitated salt crystals, and rocks” to create a 1,500 foot long, 15 foot wide water coil.

Any challenges the artist was confronted with when creating the Spiral Jetty may be comparable to the work that is going into conserving the art. As nature continues to recreate this work of art, the importance of documenting this earthwork is ever more important.

How Is The Spiral Jetty Being Preserved?

Both nature and man have made quite the impact on the Spiral Jetty. In recent years, because of drought, the earthwork has emerged from its safe home underwater. Smithson was said to have been, “fascinated by the concept of entropy…” and may have even “…welcomed this transformation.” However, less appealing are the man made changes that occur when visitors, who have access to the site, walk away with rock souvenirs.

Today, the Dia Center for the Arts, which acquired the Spiral Jetty from the Robert Smithson Estate in 1999, is partnering up with the Getty Conservation Institute to document the earthwork regularly. Only time will tell if there will need to be conservation efforts to keep the Spiral Jetty constructed in the way Smithson intended it.

The preservation efforts are inexpensive and consist of a disposable latex weather balloon, which monitors the vast creation from above. The images, captured with a Canon point and shoot camera, help conservationists see how the work of art is changing over the years. These photographs will be useful in continuing to weigh options as to how they may best preserve, and possibly restore the piece.

Why Is It Important To Preserve Earthwork?

As nature and people threaten the structure, there may come a day when portions of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty needs to be rebuilt. Though many of the existing earthworks were created to withstand the elements, they may need to be touched up and monitored to ensure they last for years to come.

For the sake of preservation, it is important to be mindful of how both art and nature impacts the world around us. One reason why earthwork captivates us is because these pieces are subject to the elements. This means they are always changing and reshaping, to create a unique type of art. When merging man’s abilities with the natural world, it is important to maintain man’s hard work and nature’s creativity.

References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/arts/design/18spiral.html?_r=1&

http://www.robertsmithson.com/earthworks/spiral_jetty.htm

http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/videos/focus/spiral_jetty.html

Read more Segmation blog posts about art beyond the canvas:

Travel Like an Artist

The Body as a Canvas

The Natural Side of Art

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The Natural Side of Art

When most people think of art, the first thing that might come to their mind is an easel, oil paints, brushes, and watercolors. Or perhaps an individual’s thoughts might immediately conjure images of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, or Degas’ ethereal paintings of ballerinas. These works are certainly exquisite examples of fine art. But art is inclusive of these “traditional” works and so much more. Organic art is part of that “more.”

Organic art is somewhat of a movement that is beginning to make waves in the art world. Organic (or as one particular artist puts it, “eco-friendly”) art is inclusive of art pieces that have been created with organic materials, such as dried leaves and flowers, twigs, plants, tree bark, and other natural elements. Organic artists often use a canvas made out of processed tree bark and will glue elements to the canvas using organic glue. Some artists do not use paint, even if it is naturally derived, to color their creations. Rather, they use dried flowers and leaves to create the effects they desire.

Artists are choosing to embrace organic art for reasons that are both moral and preferential. Some are truly against any type of waste, and therefore reject traditional art supplies. Such artists wish to use only materials that are readily available from the earth and would have gone to waste had they not been used for artistic purposes. Other artists simply love nature and find it a privilege to use its offerings to compose their pieces with.

In your opinion, what is art? Is it only paintings and drawings that have a certain amount of prestige, or can it be creations crafted with totally natural elements? Many people seem to believe that art can be highly refined as well as rugged and earthy. This principle bleeds over into other art forms, such as music, dance, writing, and the like. Organic art is convincing people that the term “art” is more expansive and inclusive that they ever thought possible.

http://www.redbubble.com/groups/uncommon-supports-to-paint-on/forums/14208/topics/287961-the-uspo-july-how-to-basant-soni-art-on-natural-bark-of-palm-tree

Note: Images represented in this post do not belong to Segmation; they were found at http://www.redbubble.com/groups/uncommon-supports-to-paint-on/forums/14208/topics/287961-the-uspo-july-how-to-basant-soni-art-on-natural-bark-of-palm-tree and http://www.etsy.com/listing/95693579/fine-art-giclee-print-on-canvas-image-03

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