‘The Lightning Field’ – Walter De Maria, 1977 – present. (Artist Research)


(image taken from; http://www.ballardian.com/wp-content/uploads/lightning_field.jpg)


(image taken from; http://assets.faena.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/10/lightening_field.jpg)


(image taken from; http://www.diaart.org/media/transfer/img/thelightningfield1977_cliett.jpg)

An extract from my dissertation;

The Lightning Field’ is a piece of monumental, minimalist land art in the desert of New Mexico. Measuring one Kilometre, by one mile, it is a perfectly accurate geometric grid of stainless steel rods, around a thousand of them, all pointing up towards the sky above us. They stand tall and proud, iridescent and glowing, as they reflect the different light coming from the sun and moon during day and night. The point of the work is that it is a work that takes a long time to view and experience; people are required to be driven out to a cabin on the edge of the artwork, and asked to stay there for 24 hours. Most artworks we stay with for a few moments, a few minutes, stretching to an hour or so in some instances. Yet, ‘The Lightning Field’ requires one to spend an extended period of time, witnessing the artwork at all times and lighting of both the day and the night. As you experience the artwork, you become increasingly aware of the land surrounding the lightning field; ‘you allow Lightning Field to make you aware of everything around it – the desert, the sky, the changes orchestrated by time and light.’ (Varnedoe, K. 2003, p131) Maria has taken control of the environment here; his megalithic art installation demands not only the space it bursts upwards from; but also the surrounding area. It has also had an effect on the wildlife surrounding it, in an almost Darwinian sense ‘You notice that the birds have learned to light on the top of those sharp spikes in order to pursue rodents below.’ (Varnedoe, K. 2003, p132) Much like the hand of God, The artwork has influenced the natural order of this space; the artist has imbued not only those who are human and view the artwork with a better understanding of space and the role of nature in the human condition, but also the animals, and the environment itself. It is almost as if he has influenced the very earth and light within this desert to bend to his will as an artist.

This piece has influenced my current body of work in such a massive way; due to it being a focal point of my dissertation. The minimalist nature of the work, it’s ability to harness and seemingly control natural phenomena such as light, lightning, and energy within it’s minimalist form. I am incredibly interested in these notions of human control and desire; in relation to the notion of transcendence by becoming god-like through harnessing and utilisation of natural phenomena (much like A God would in mythology, as God is utilised as a means of explaining natural phenomena that could not be explained by the more primitive minds of our ancestors). Through this work, De Maria ‘Transcends’ by his ability to control these god-like forces.


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