Thursday, September 19th

Land Art - Journal Entry No. 5

8:33 am - Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Last night before dinner, Chris Willcox had invited me to partake in some moonlit yoga. I had been watching him and Adeline practice it at almost every natural landscape we’ve been to thus far; it began to look incredibly appealing, so I gladly accepted the offer. Together with a few other artists, we walked over to plot of red sand elevated next to the picnic tables. Five of us formed a circle as Chris instructed us. Downward dog buried my fingers and toes into the cool sand; I looked up at a sea of bright stars in the dark night sky as I slowly moved towards cobra pose. After nights of sleeping in a sleeping bag on the rocky ground, the stretch felt amazing. The atmosphere, however, was far more impactful.

In New York, I occasionally head to the East Village’s popular Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio available to everyone. On stressful nights, I get there half an hour to forty five minutes early to guarantee a favorable spot towards the front of the room. As it gets closer to starting time, the room quickly fills up. Once the class begins, the studio’s wooden floor becomes nearly invisible and occupied with as many people as the room can accommodate. As the instructor starts and the class advances, the room steadily heats up and a distinct aroma of anti deodorant-wearing East Village hipster fills the air. Sometimes there may also be that obnoxious yoga girl, disturbing the peace with loud gasps and moans at every new pose. Yet, as a New Yorker, these things are familiar and you become used to them. You feel at peace laying on that wooden floor as the teacher sounds the gong, and you leave far more relaxed than when you entered.

Still, yoga at the Valley of Fire was something else. An old, cracked ceiling does not at all compare to a constellation-filled sky. The seemingly exfoliating texture of the Valley’s sand is far easier on the toes than a sweaty wooden floor. A small group practicing yoga for the sake of interacting with nature acts in a completely different way than a packed New York City Yoga to the People class. When it was over and time for dinner, I knew I would sleep well that night. Both the guidance of guru Chris and the Valley of Fire’s engaging atmosphere enabled me to have the best night’s sleep of the trip so far.

4:31 pm - On the road en route to Page, Arizona

After packing up camp, we left the Valley of Fire and made our way to Michael Heizer’sDouble Negative. On the drive there, Chris read an incredibly lengthy and detailed New York Times feature profiling the artist. Admittedly not knowing much about Heizer beforehand, I was very intrigued. As he’s described by the publication’s chief art critic, Michael Kimmelman, Heizer’s character seems familiar in another popular creative form more Americans understand: hip-hop music. If we were to relate Heizer to a rapper, he would be the Kanye West of Earth art. To back up the comparison, one must acknowledge the fact that Heizer insistently claims his work, specifically his most well-known piece,Double Negative, to be absolutely genius. He also informs Kimmelman that his former friend and contemporary, Robert Smithson, had stolen his ideas to create the popular Land Art work, the Spiral Jetty. Even the breadth of his work- massive, yet minimal in notion- constitutes Heizer’s need for vast and dramatic earth art. His pieces both instill awe and fear and, like almost all earth works, create a strong feeling of isolation. Needless to say, the New York Times piece added to the excitement of seeing Double Negative.

To get there, you must drive up a rocky mountain in a remote area of the Nevada Desert. The road up was nearly non-existent and so shaky that the vans had to leave the trailers behind to venture up. Surrounded by a terrain of dirt brown mountains, we slowly bumped our way to it and jumped out of the van as soon as we were close enough. However, we soon felt that this landscape wasn’t as inviting as the locations of the Land Art pieces we had seen in Utah. The ground was comprised of rocks that made it difficult to walk, and the surrounding air emitted a very dry, hot heat. This work also varied from the others in that it wasn’t literally adding anything to the land, but subtracting from it- hence, Double Negative. To create this work, Heizer and his team constructed two massive gashes facing each other in the Nevada Desert’s Mormon Mountains. When they were originally presented to the public, the gashes appear to be impressively shear 90 degree angles. Decades later and unmaintained, they are no longer shear, but looking at them still immediately invokes a great feeling of intimidation.

This immense and deliberate man-made subtraction from Earth doesn’t even begin to describe what this piece actually feels like. It is something that you can’t really appreciate through pictures; it really must be viewed directly to comprehend. (That goes for all Land Art pieces, but this one even more so.) Leaving Michael Heizer’s amazing work, I realized even just seeing it wasn’t quite enough. We were able to camp by the Spiral Jetty and the Sun Tunnels, which allowed us to better understand the work, but we did not camp byDouble Negative; we never got to see it in a different light. Now more of the decisions made on this trip start to make sense. Sure, part of the reason we were camping was due to it being cost effective and convenient based on most of our locations, but it’s so much more than that. Living by the work provides an experience you can’t get in a museum or an art gallery. Land art simply cannot be completely understood with a short trip. This comes in understanding that Earth’s natural light is an incredibly vital aspect to appreciating it. For all of these works, each changed depending on the time of day and unfortunately, that didn’t become apparent to me until we were already halfway to Arizona.

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Photography Credit: Adam Joseph Brochstein 

Adam loves eating five cheeseburgers a week. To be honest, sometimes its more. It's a fairly terrifying sight. But he only enjoys a cheeseburger after he makes pictures. That comes first. He completed his B.F.A. at the Art Institute of Boston. He now resides in San Francisco, CA where he recently completed his M.F.A. in photography at the California College of the Arts. He formerly lived in Boston, MA where he relocated from south of the MasonDixon line, by way of Boulder, CO. Adam is available for editorial & commercial work and is actively pursuing his personal work as well.

Originally published on Promote & Preserve.