2011 Land Arts Journey 2 Summary

Land Arts 2011 at Texas Tech concluded its second journey on Monday 24 October 2011 with the sense of purpose and dedication it began in late August due in large part to the dedicated participants: Alexander Bingham, Luis Bustamante III, Will Cotton, Winston Holloway, Richard Klaja, Celeste Martinez, Zachary Mitchell, Carl Spartz, Rachael Wilson, and Bethany Wood. Adrian Larriva (Land Arts 2009 Alum and TTU MARCH graduate) proved pivotal as the Land Arts Program Assistant, and Chris Taylor continues to direct the program at Texas Tech.

Breaks between journeys always alternate between not enough time for necessary correspondence, bill paying, and deep cleaning, and too much time away from the immediacy of working and living in the field. Everyone was eager to return to the patina of the road as we ventured through West Texas to begin a slower pace voyage with a focus on sites to make work. We were out for twenty-five days and traveled around 2,500 miles overland. During that time we were visited by outstanding field guests: Design Build Adventure founder Jack Sanders, West Texas living legend and artist Boyd Elder, Land Arts 2009 alum Jose Villanueva, and PORK New Orleans designer and educator David Gregor.

Our second journey began in Marfa, Texas with the legacy of Donald Judd through visits to the Judd Foundation and the Chinati Foundation. A healthy wind storm also greeted our return, snapping a weak tie down strap and flipping the kitchen tent. Nothing major was lost and we were able to quickly reset camp. Jack Sanders met us in Marfa to tell us about the evolutionary design and construction processes developing El Cosmico. Learning first hand we also invested our efforts in the process by helping establish newly planted trees.

From Marfa we made the short trip west to Valentine where Boyd Elder and Jose Villanueva were waiting. Boyd’s family goes back to the origins of this small West Texas town and in recent years an old dance hall from the late nineteenth century has come under his care. While the building, called the Saloone (read Sa-loan), needs a great deal of work, it’s thick adobe shell is worthy of attention. Jose has been working with Boyd to get the project moving and lending the collective shoulder of Land Arts added to the momentum. The students got their hands dirty repairing adobe and adding mud plaster to stave off future erosion using a recipe with cactus juice and horse dung from Ron Rael. It was three days of serious work. On our way out of Valentine we visited Prada Marfa with Boyd in the early morning light.

En route to our next site we stopped in El Paso for supplies and to attend a fiesta for the students hosted by Jesse and Irma Larriva. This is the third year the Larriva’s have welcomed Land Arts into their home, fortunately this year Robert Gonzales, Director of the Texas Tech College of Architecture El Paso program was able to participate. On the road again, we rolled into Cabinetlandia at sun set as a cold front blew in. Rain to our east and west dropped the temperature precipitously and the stiff wind filled air, tents, and lungs with dust. The fierce weather broke quickly leaving us clear skies and cold nights.

Cabinetlandia is a project space of Brooklyn based Cabinet magazine and site of the Cabinet National Library. Located within the failed Deming Ranchettes development between Interstate 10 and a major east-west route of the Southern Pacific Railroad the site is an outstanding laboratory to explore and test the ongoing Land Arts conversation unfolding through our regular seminars.

David Gregor joined us at Cabinetlandia to share the aerial photographic techniques he used last summer in China. From New Orleans he brought a kite for sending a camera aloft, a sixteen foot tall stick for elevated points of view, and a series of influential books to share with the students. David was very generous with his deep connection to the land art sites throughout the American West and his reading of the priorities facing design, art and architecture education today.

With our fill of fine Chihuahuan Desert scrubland dust we said farewell to David and ventured into Deming to resupply our food stocks and do a bit of laundry. From there we turned north heading into the Gila Wilderness—straight to the Gila River and hot springs to extend the much needed cleaning. After a brief soaking we returned south to set camp along the banks of the Mimbres River. This was another work site and the students pursued their projects immediately. From hands on fabrication to various levels of mapping this was a very productive place.

On the road again we passed through Silver City then southwest out of the mountains. Mining casts a long shadow across our itinerary and we stopped for lunch at the beleaguered interpretive overlook of the Tyrone Tailings Reclamation.

Next, a site near the top of the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona allowed us to experience how sky islands operate in the desert. We also gained first hand knowledge of the impact of last May’s Horseshoe Two Fire that badly burnt the Chiricahua Mountains shifting the focus of this site from work to interpretation. All structured campgrounds around Barfoot peak were closed. Fortunately our regular site did not burn completely and was safe to use. Students worked to make sense of the effects of drought, land use policy that minimizes sustainable cycles of fire, increased human interaction in fragile ecological territories, and shifting climatic patterns. Lessons were palpable in what came back from their excursions and folded directly into their work.

We extended the route to our final camp to rejoin the Gila River and follow it to the Coolidge Dam on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. We stopped for lunch at this fantastic dome and buttress structure built in the late 1920’s. At Globe we turned onto Highway 60 heading north through the Salt River canyon and then east through Show Low, Springerville and Quemado. Working against the path of the sun we rolled into our camp on the edge of the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico just as the last light was leaving the sky. The well seasoned crew set camp and started making dinner in no time.

The next day the group split in two so we could visit The Lightning Field by Walter di Maria. On the way we visited the Very Large Array to ponder astronomers making images with what they hear from deep space. Photography of The Lightning Field is still not permitted and both groups had outstanding visits indexing the daily balance of light with our senses.

Highway 52, the dirt road running along the east edge of the Plains of San Agustin and near our camp was busy with hunters pushing south into the Gila Wilderness for the beginning of elk season. It also seemed to bring poachers of pronghorn antelope as we witnessed a drive by kill site and found twelve abandoned legs. The spirits in the camp remained strong as we neared the completion of our field season and students focus on their work deepened.

With the first clouds we’d seen in two weeks it was time to load up. A bit dirtier and worn down, we packed into the vans one more time and rolled towards home, to clean up, and, to eat Los Tacos in east Lubbock. Now the students are completing their work on campus for the end of the semester critique on December 7, 2011 and the Land Arts 2011 Exhibition at the LHUCA Warehouses in Lubbock from April 7 to May 4, 2012.

A select group of images from Journey 2 are included below and more are available in the Field Reports section of this site. Our complete itinerary is online at Land Arts 2011 Itinerary.

West Texas Departure

Lunch in Pyote, Texas.

Marfa, Texas

Judd Foundation tour of The Block, Marfa, Texas.

One of our tie down straps broke in the wind toppling the cook tent at El Cosmico, Marfa, Texas.

Working of the grounds at El Cosmico — weeding and mulching, Marfa, Texas.

Collecting mulch for the new trees at El Cosmico, Marfa, Texas.

Walking El Cosmico with Jack Sanders, Marfa, Texas.

Cleaning up after dinner with Ginger and Jack, El Cosmico, Marfa, Texas.

Valentine, Texas

Boyd Elder and Jorge in the Saloone, Valentine, Texas.

The Saloone before starting to work, Valentine, Texas.

Mixing more mud from dust at the Saloone, Valentine, Texas.

Cactus and horse manure tea ready for mixing with adobe mud at the Saloone, Valentine, Texas.

Celeste filling in a void in the existing adobe wall at the Saloone, Valentine, Texas.

Saloone stabilized after three days work with Jose Villanueva, Valentine, Texas.

Touring Prada Marfa with Boyd Elder, Valentine, new Mexico.

El Paso, Texas

Fiesta at the house of Jesse and Irma Larriva with Robert Gonzales, Director of the Texas Tech El Paso Architecture Program, El Paso, Texas.

Cabinetlandia, Deming, New Mexico

Arrival at Cabinetlandia in a dust storm, east of Deming, New Mexico.

Cabinet National Library, east of Deming, New Mexico.

David Gregor testing the kite before sending a camera up, Cabinetlandia, east of Deming, New Mexico.

David Gregor mounting the camera and cradle to the kite string in preparation of flight, Cabinetlandia, east of Deming, New Mexico.

Kite photography with David Gregor, Cabinetlandia, east of Deming, New Mexico.

David Gregor talking about his work and the development of PORK at Cabinetlandia, east of Deming, New Mexico.

Books David Gregor brought to share with the students, Cabinetlandia, east of Deming, New Mexico.

Remains of the cooking pit at Cabinetlandia, east of Deming, New Mexico.

Gila Hot Springs, New Mexico

Gingerly taking in the warm waters at the Gila Hot Springs, New Mexico.

Mimbres River, New Mexico

Mimbres River, Gila Wildnerness, New Mexico.

Will planing sticks to make an aerial camera mount, Mimbres River, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico.

Will planing sticks to make an aerial camera mount, Mimbres River, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico.

Celeste mapping the sun at the Mimbres River, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico.

Richie mapping the geometry of a fallen cottonwood tree, Mimbres River, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico.

Roadside Lunch

Lunch at the Tyrone Tailings Reclamation Overlook, south of Tyrone, New Mexico.

Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona

Driving into the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Hiking up to the Barfoot Lookout, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Looking north from the site of the old Barfoot Lookout cabin, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Campfire in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Bethany drawing with burnt wood in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Van positioned to maximize solar charging, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Celeste Martinez sampling color and texture in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Alex Bingham’s field notes of explorations in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Coolidge Dam, San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona

Arriving for lunch at the Coolidge Dam, San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona. The triple dome and buttress dam was dedicated in 1930.

Stair down from the northwestern spillway at the Coolidge Dam, San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona.

Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico

Base camp on the edge of the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

Celeste Martinez at the Very Large Array, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

The center of The Lightning Field, northeast of Quemado, New Mexico.

Questionable pronghorn antelope kill site, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

Abandoned pronghorn antelope legs bringing further evidence to poaching, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

Jupiter rising over camp, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

Celeste Martinez, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

Will collecting the microphone from his Tub Harp, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

2011 Participants before loading up, Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.

Back to Texas

Inside the passenger van on Highway 60, Central New Mexico.

Last of the white lunch sandwiches, Roswell, New Mexico.

Luis and the reasonably clean van, Lubbock, Texas.

Welcome back dinner at Los Tacos, Lubbock, Texas.

2011 Land Arts Journey 1 Summary

Land Arts 2011 at Texas Tech concluded its first journey on Wednesday 21 September 2011. The expedition amplifies the growing momentum of the Lubbock based program. The exceptional group of participants from architecture and art are: Alexander Bingham, Luis Bustamante III, Will Cotton, Winston Holloway, Richard Klaja, Celeste Martinez, Zachary Mitchell, Carl Spartz, Rachael Wilson, and Bethany Wood. Adrian Larriva (Land Arts 2009 Alum and TTU MARCH graduate) is the Program Assistant, and Chris Taylor continues to direct the program at Texas Tech.

From the wonderfully multivalent introductory site in the shadow of White Sands Missile Range to the remote archeological remains of Moon House our itinerary traversed significant physical and conceptual territory. We were out for twenty-seven days and traveled around 3,500 miles overland. During that time we were visited by outstanding field guests: geologist and Laguna Pueblo tribal member Curtis Francisco, documentary filmmaker Sam Douglas, art historian Ann Reynolds, CLUI Director Matt Coolidge, SIMPARCH member Steve Badgett, and Rob Ray.

Considerable heat welcomed our departure as much of West Texas has been scorched this summer. It remained with us punctuated by epic rain events tempering the extremes. From White Sands we ventured northwest to Chaco Canyon to experience the escalation of architectural impulse in North America and to become aware of the complexity of narratives attempting to make sense of the place. From there we traversed the Grants Mineral Belt, aka the uranium mining epicenter es, stopping at the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants to gain perspective. Our usual site in Cebolla Canyon was unaccessible to use in our vans because of washouts through the deep arroyo. We adjusted and found a nice site up Sand Canyon. The following day was spent with Curtis Francisco touring the reclaimed Jackpile Mine at Laguna Pueblo. Jackpile was the largest open pit uranium mine from the mid 1950’s until the 1980’s. Ground water contamination continues to be among a host of issues and Curtis was encouraged to tell of recent traction towards Superfund status.

Our next top was another adjustment. As we departed Lubbock Tom McGrath phoned to followup on our inquiry to visit the Roden Crater Project by James Turrell. It seemed that timing was right and we swapped the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a Roden Visit. This meant an opportunity to explore a new base site in the Coconino National Forest and spend an afternoon and early evening in the crater–a significant highlight for the students.

Venturing further west our next stop was Mormon Mesa, Nevada and the site of seminal earthwork Double Negative by Michael Heizer. We arrived to intense heat, as usual this time of year, so dips into an elevated Lake Mead were especially welcome to cool down and do a bit of laundry and bathing. While we were at Double Negative we were joined by Sam Douglas of Big Beard Films who is working on a new project about land art tentatively called “Moving Mountains: Land Arts of the American West.” Sam and his crew of David Hartstein, David Layton, and Ben, joined us to document the field operations of the Land Arts program.

A scheduling opportunity brought art historian Ann Reynolds to our group a day early so we made another itinerary adjustment from Goshute Canyon to South Base in Wendover, Utah to take advantage of the fine SIMPARCH sound system for the screening of Sam Douglas’s last documentary “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the spirit of the Rural Studio.” The other serendipity was that the University of New Mexico Land Arts crew was in Wendover then so we were able to invite them to the screening and spend an evening swapping stories from the road.

Up early the next morning we were off around the top of the Great Salt Lake stopping at Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt along the way to Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson. I was particularly surprised with the new road extending all the way to the jetty. What had been before a gradually slowing drive across an increasingly rough road, the last mile at a snails pace carefully picking ones way around large rocks, has become a wide built-up road bed. Now it’s possible to zip all the way out there without pause. Seems a tour bus could even turn around at the end the bright pad is so large.

The Great Salt Lake was at a wonderfully elevated level so the Spiral Jetty was visible as a mirage in the surface of the water with only the highest rocks breaking the surface. The condition meant that it was a work to be apprehended by walking, or “seeing with your feet” as one of the students said. Understanding this work beyond its character as a visual image is essential and a powerful lesson of land art.

It was great to be there with art historian Ann Reynolds and a wonderful seminar took place on the afternoon of our second day there. Given the time to experience both the work and the larger context of Rozel Point and the oil exploration jetty to the south opened several lines of dialog. Sam and his crew also made good use of there time with us.

The next morning was another 8:00am departure heading the rest of the way around the lake. Our first stop was the Bingham Canyon Mine, an open pit copper mine so big they boast it can be seen from space. (It is often challenged as the largest excavation by the copper mine in Chuquicamata, Chile.) Since Robert Smithson has proposed works for the bottom of the pit it was particularly relevant to be there with Ann Reynolds. In the visitors center parking lot we bid our farewells to Ann, Sam and his crew as they set off for the Salt Lake airport and back to Austin, and we went on to Wendover, Utah to meet Matt Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation.

CLUI Wendover is always a highlight and given this season’s action packed start it is our first concentrated work site. Students have become eager to have time to make their own works and to reflect on the range of conditions and topics we have been exposed to thus far. They are also eager to do proper, well almost proper, laundry. We begin our time in Wendover with a lecture about CLUI from Matt and a day of touring the Wendover facilities and landscape conditions. The following days are spent with people working across the airbase and town, out on the Bonneville Salt Flats, and out at South Base where Steve Badgett and Rob Ray are in residence. Time in Wendover always seems to evaporate and energy levels draw low with long days and short nights. It is a fascinating and intensely productive landscape.

After Wendover our last work site for Journey 1 is Muley Point on Cedar Mesa in the far southeastern corner of Utah. The drive is long and epic across the top of a nearly full Lake Powell, with our usual camp site occupied we set up further west at a site much closer to the 1,100 edge of the mesa overlooking the goosenecks of the San Juan River. The sky is active to the north and southwest so we pitch camp quickly. As dinner concludes a big storm rolls in from Monument Valley dropping a significant amount of rain and lightning. Within an hour the sky calms and people retreat to their tents.

The remaining days were spent both exploring the landscape of Muley Point with filled tinajas and working. We also spent one day hiking out on Snow Flat to the archeological site of Moon House. The new trail remains strenuous however it is much safer than the old one. After the hike we went down to Mexican Hat for a cool down swim in the very muddy and swift San Juan River. The level was so high that there was essentially no bank and it was nearly impossible to walk across the river. So our efforts to float a bit of the river had to be limited to short distances. Still, and even with all the mud, it was refreshing to get in the water.

Our return route included a stop over at the Red Dog Shed in Madrid and the following day a visit to Bosque Redondo in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This was the destination site of the Long Walk of the Navajo and Mescalero Apache. The audio guide and other programing are particularly moving.

Once back in Lubbock we unloaded the vans and dig a major cleaning and sorting of the gear to make it ready for our departure on Journey 2 on Thursday 29 September 2011. Look for more Field Reports whenever we have the ability to make remote posts. A select group of images from Journey 1 are included below.

Loading up in Lubbock

Loading up in Lubbock, Texas

Sam Douglas and Big Beard Films documenting our departure from Lubbock, Texas.


Twin Buttes, New Mexico

Unloading gear for the first time at Twin Buttes, New Mexico.

Setting up the cook tent for the first time, Twin Buttes, New Mexico.

Van mounted mapping notebook thanks to the work of Jose Villanueva and Sunny Tang, Twin Buttes, New Mexico.


White Sands National Monument

Alex Bingham’s reference book at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.


Traveling to Chaco Canyon

Traveling from Twin Buttes to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Stopping at the Trinity Site highway marker, New Mexico.


Chaco Canyon

Hiking to Pueblo Alto, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Overlooking Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon.

Touring Pueblo Bonito with G.B. Cornucopia, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.



Visiting the New Mexico Mining Museum, Grants, New Mexico.


Jackpile Mine, Laguna Pueblo

Above Jackpile Mine with geologist Curtis Francisco, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico.

Talking with geologist Curtis Francisco on top of Gabaldon Mesa in the reclaimed open pit uranium Jackpile Mine at Laguna Pueblo.



Truck stop lunch, Interstate 40, Arizona.


Roden Crater Project

Approaching Roden Crater, northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Visiting Roden Crater with Tom McGrath.


Lake Mead

Laundry at Lake Mead, Nevada.


Double Negative

Walking Double Negative, Morman Mesa, Nevada.


Big Beard Films

Big Beard Films at Double Negative, Morman Mesa, Nevada.

Celeste Martinez interviewed by Sam Douglas at Double Negative, Morman Mesa, Nevada.


Citizen Architect

Screening the film Citizen Architect with filmmaker Sam Douglas, CLUI South Base, Wendover, Utah.


Sun Tunnels

Ann Reynolds at Sun Tunnels, near Lucin, Utah.

Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt, near Lucin, Utah.

Carl Spartz being interviewed by Sam Douglas at Sun Tunnels, near Lucin, Utah.


Spiral Jetty

Arrival at the Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Camp at Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Within the Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Alex and the helicopter at the Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Oil Exploration Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

New road to the Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Seminar with Ann Reynolds at Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Dusk at the Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah.


Bingham Canyon Mine

Ann Reynolds explaining Roberts Smithson’s proposal for the bottom of Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah.


CLUI Wendover

Matt Coolidge talking about the work of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Wendover, Utah.

Inside the Wendover Airfield Museum with Matt Coolidge at the John Costen-Mueller replica of Little Boy, Wendover, Utah.

On the Bonneville Salt Flats, near Wendover, Utah.

Touring the Clean Livin infrastructure with Steve Badgett, South Base, Wendover, Utah.

Laundry sans heat, Wendover, Utah.

Carl Spartz and Will Cotton prepare to talk the quad bike on a CLUI Wendover Auto Tour, Wendover, Utah.

Heading out onto the Bonneville Salt Flats, near Wendover, Utah.

Steve Badgett talking about the work of SIMPARCH under the atomic sky at South Base, Wendover, Utah.

Installing a bat tarp in the Target Hall to help CLUI and the South Base bats coexist, Wendover, Utah.

Late night clean up after dinner and a movie at South Base, Wemdover, Utah.

We get our energy from the sun, Wendover, Utah.

“Creation Myth of the Great Basin” by Carl Spartz, Wendover, Utah.

Alex Bingham taking readings around Wendover, Utah.


Muley Point

Arrival at Muley Point, Utah. Usual site occupied. Set up near the rim with storm looming in Monument Valley to the south.

Exploring the edge at Muley Point, Utah.

Celeste Martinez celestial vaulting at Muley Point, Utah.

At the edge looking towards Monument Valley, Muley Point, Utah.

Celeste drying hand, Muley Point, Utah.

Tub Harp by Will Cotton, Muley Point, Utah.

Will packing lunch for the Moon House hike, Muley Point, Utah.

Utensils Bin, Muley Point, Utah.

Hiking through the canyon, Cedar Mesa, Utah.

Winston inside Moon House, Cedar Mesa, Utah.

Cooling off and cleaning up in the muddy waters of the San Juan River, Mexican Hat, Utah.

Camp drawing by Chris Taylor, Muley Point, Utah.

Alex drawing at Muley Point, Utah.

Campfire and Milky Way, Muley Point, Utah.

Travel Day dawn, Muley Point, Utah.


Traveling back to Lubbock

Another Truck Stop lunch in the shade (narrow as it is), Bloomfield, New Mexico.

Carl, Adrian and Will at Red Dog Shed, Madrid, New Mexico.

Listening to the stories of Bosque Redondo and how it was the destination of the Long March for the Navajo and Apache, Fort. Sumner, New Mexico.

Lunch at Bosque Redondo, Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Cleaning up from Journey 1, Lubbock, Texas