2012 Land Arts Journey 1 Summary
Land Arts 2012 at Texas Tech first journey ran from 28 August to 24 September 2012. The expedition continues to amplify the growing momentum of the Lubbock based program. The exceptional group of participants are: Zoe Berg (artist), Katy Chrisler (poet), Cade Hammers (architect), Martin Medina (architect), Maura Murnane (artist), Colleen O’Brien (artist), Jigga Patel (architect), Nicholas Pierce (poet), Arie Ruvinsky (artist) and Cecilia Stewart (architect). Jose Villanueva (Land Arts 2009 Alum) 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, Remote Studio director Lori Ryker, CLUI Director Matt Coolidge, SIMPARCH member Steve Badgett, artist and film maker Deborah Stratman, artist and fabricator Rob Ray, Intrepid Potash plant manager Russ Draper, and writer Lucy Lippard.
Our departure from West Texas began with the rising heat of late summer. The second night at Twin Buttes was punctuated by a prolonged wind storm that immediately tested the logistics of our kitchen as well as a few personal tents. From White Sands we ventured northwest past the Trinity Site highway marker to Cebolla Canyon. From this base camp we spent a day 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. On our way north traversed the Grants Mineral Belt, aka the uranium mining epicenter, stopping at the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants to gain perspective. At Chaco Canyon we explored Pueblo Bonito, Penasco Blanco and Casa Rinconada experiencing the escalation of architectural impulse in North America and becoming aware of the complexity of narratives attempting to make sense of the place.
From Chaco we continued northwest to Cedar Mesa for a work site at Muley Point. Recent rains had filled most of the tinajas and new growth evidenced an ecosystem in rebound. We spent one day hiking out on Snow Flat to the archeological site of Moon House. The permit process to access the site continues to tighten. After the hike we went down to Mexican Hat for a cool down swim in the muddy and refreshing San Juan River.
From Muley we traveled northwest crossing the Colorado and Dirty Devil rivers at Hite, resupplying in Green River and stopping for a night on the eastern face of the Wasatch range at Price Canyon. We needed to break up the drive from Muley to the Spiral Jetty so we could visit the Bingham Canyon Mine the next morning. The open pit copper mine is 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.)
We arrived at Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson to join Lori Ryker and her crew from the Remote Studio who were on there first expedition of the semester from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was great to spend to spend an evening with them and exchange experiences about spending time in the wilderness examining what we find there.
From Spiral Jetty we ventured north around the top of the lake along the path of the first transcontinental rail line to Lucin and lunch at Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt. From there we were making good time south to Wendover when an error of judgement occurred. Conditions on the playas had appeared dry so a split decision was made to try the pipeline road cutoff that runs across the mud flats north of the Silver Mountains. We would all regret this later, in good cheer, as we spent several hours dealing with getting the vans liberated from the mud they became lodged in. Suppose it’s true what they say about short cuts… The good news is that Matt Coolidge was in Wendover and he was able to help organize the rescue, including riding out on the mud-cat.
Once in Wendover, Utah we entered the orbit of the Center for Land Use Interpretation. CLUI Wendover is always a highlight and this year was no exception. Students were eager for a proper shower (first in two weeks), laundry, learning about the center, and making their own work in this context. People spent time working across the airbase and town, out on Bonneville Salt Flats, and out at South Base where Steve Badgett and Deborah Stratman were in residence. Our poets spent a day with Steve and Deb hiking up a mountain ridge to experience the Hawk Watch program in action. Rob Ray also joined the crew to work with Deb on Power / Exchange. Steve was so impressed with what Jose has done with our kitchen operation that he presented us with a hand crank blender to augment the preparation of more fresh salsas. 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.
From Wendover we ventured south to Mormon Mesa, Nevada and the site of the earthwork Double Negative by Michael Heizer. We arrived in mid afternoon so before setting up camp we continued on to Lake Mead to cool down. Being here ten days later than past years made a ten degree shift in the high temperatures. Everyone appreciated that they remained around 100 instead of 110.
After two days with the work we traveled north to climb the Kaibab Plateau for our approach to the Grand Canyon. Our first night was spent in the alpine forest of Tipover Canyon–waking to frosty conditions. For the next two nights we had a permit to camp out at Point Sublime. Usually we make the trip for a single afternoon and evening. It was fantastic to have more time at such a powerful spot on the rim. While there we made new friends with fellow campers Bruce and Inez who now share their travel post cards with us.
Our return route included a stop at the Red Dog Shed in Madrid with a visit to Lucy Lippard in Galisteo. The students gained much from the exchange with her about the trajectory of her career and what she is working on now. The following day on our way back to Lubbock we visited Bosque Redondo in Fort Sumner, New Mexico–the destination site of the Long Walk of the Navajo and Mescalero Apache. Currently the Little Sister Rug is on view.
Once back in Lubbock we unloaded the vans and did a major cleaning and sorting of the gear to make it ready for our departure on Journey 2 on Wednesday 3 October 2012. 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.