Land Art: Expression Through Nature

When I stand at the top of a mountain and prepare to plunge through its blanket of snow, I watch the snowboarders ahead of me disappear as they carve into the earth. Their tracks differ with every run and it creates a unique pattern as they move down the mountain. Snowboarding stimulates your senses as a form of exercise, but also as art. My tracks are marking the surface, just as a pencil does to paper. Land art is a medium that defies the limitation of a gallery. Designers, artists of multiple trades, and snowboarders like me, find inspiration in the beauty of simple forms developed by a collaboration between nature and human. 

The relationship between nature and art is palpable. Here are a few examples of artists using nature as expression: 


Michael Heizer is a contemporary artist from Nevada. He uses the desert as a vast exploration of his large-scale and architecturally sized art. Most of his work displaces mass and introduces voids through trench patterns. He was part of the land art movement in the 1960s, where art was intentionally created, not to fit in a museum.

"Double Negative," 1969-1970 

"Double Negative," 1969-1970 

"Circular Surface, Planar Displacement Drawing" 1969

"Circular Surface, Planar Displacement Drawing" 1969

Heizer drove a motorcycle in circular patterns to create ephemeral art on a dry Nevada lake.


Walter De Maria was a minimalist artist from California, but lived and worked in New York City. His work focused on engaging the viewer to think about the earth and its relationship to the universe. He saw that everything had a dimension, so his work measures the immeasurable by blurring the distinction between foreground and background. 

"Mile Long Drawing" 1968

"Mile Long Drawing" 1968

"The Lightning Field" 1977

"The Lightning Field" 1977

The "Lightning Field" is his most famous landscape art, which consists of 400 steel poles embedded in a grid in the New Mexico desert.


Nancy Holt was a land artist and sculptor from Massachusetts. Her work focused on the issues of how people observe time and space. Her work complemented the sculpture's natural surroundings as she used human scale and interaction to drive her designs. 

"Sun Tunnels" 1976

"Sun Tunnels" 1976

These four tunnels align with the sun as it rises and sets during the winter and summer solstices of the calendar year. The tunnels also have small holes that project the constellations Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn. 


James Turrell is a very well-known installation artist from California. He designs and constructs landscapes of light and space that challenge perception. Some of his work is a representation of the unification between sky and land. His geometric shapes, light, and use of color define the relation between opposites in nature, and then breaks that barrier through architectural design.

"The Color Inside" 2013

"The Color Inside" 2013

"Stone Sky" 2005

"Stone Sky" 2005

"Roden Crater" 2015

"Roden Crater" 2015


Andy Goldsworthy is a land artist, sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist from Scotland. His work hightlights nature's beauty in the simplest way. His use of items foraged from the forest influences his message about transformation. He uses pops of color to define moments, thoughtfully places stones and leaves in geometric patterns, and uses the reflection of water to complete a circuit.


Jim Denevan is a temporary land artist from California. He travels all over the world in search of massive canvases of sand, soil, and ice to create large patterns that play with idea of scale. Ariel photographs of his work are commonly taken so viewers can fully comprehend his intensions.

These are just a few examples of my favorite nature artists. Their work is a gentle reminder of how humble and beautiful the world is. As a designer I've noticed a trend in natural patterns, whether it's raw  material, a printed textile, or a textural feature wall, our beloved planet continues to stimulate the artistic mind. Designers and artist of all kinds find inspiration in the unity and connection between self expression, art and nature.

When I hit the snowy slopes of a mountain, walk by the colorful changing trees of Brooklyn, or even watch the ripples in a slush puddle on the streets of New York City, there is a rhythm in the way nature works. Harnessing it can be a beautiful thing.

 

Watch this documentary for more inspiration!

"Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art" A Documentary by James Crump (Official trailer 2016)

 

Alexandra Seager, Designer