Saturday, September 14th

Land Art - Journal Entry No. 1

11:06 am – Microtel Inn Parking Lot • Salt Lake City, Utah

You would think that waking up in a strange motel room with a girl you spoke to for less than 20 minutes the night before would make things really awkward. Luckily for me, Sheenagh is a sweet, down to earth girl, and even though her jet lag caused her to rise at 5am, she was respectful and friendly. Over a pre-breakfast coffee, I got to know her in a more proper way. She told me about her work as an artist, her recent master’s degree, a move from London back to her home in Ireland, and her longterm boyfriend, John. Once I spoke on my own situation, it seemed that although Sheenagh is nearly 10 years my senior, we are in strangely similar places in our lives. She explained that after completing her master’s degree in London, she moved into her grandmother’s old home in Ireland. Although it was financially convenient, it was a hard move for her because London is really the city she’d love to be in. Before the trip, she was contemplating her next move.  She considered pursuing a teaching career even though that’s not something she’s entirely keen on doing, but it would enable her to have a steady paycheck and also give her the funds to continue to pursue her artwork. We both agreed that a creative career is tricky. You have to go into it not expecting to ever be financially secure. It’s a job that you love enough to be okay with struggling from time to time. “I would really hate to have a job that would make me completely miserable,” she said in sincerity.  

We walked down to the lobby where we faced the group we would be traveling with for the next month. Initially, it was kind of intimidating. Everyone seemed like they already knew each other and no one was quick to introduce themselves. Sheenagh and I poured ourselves cups of coffee and tried to sit with the group. Between popping mini muffins, we both expressed the same feeling- uncertainty. Shortly after, we were led outside where we were presented with our transportation for the trip- two vans with trailers attached to their tails. The first trailer was packed with everything we would need for our camping expeditions: tents, sleeping bags, food, toilet paper and anything else you could ever think of needing (if you were sleeping in the wilderness). The second trailer was set up to look like a gigantic walk in closet with plastic shelves situated on its walls. Each Land Art participant was given two shelves for any materials that would need to be readily available. We all checked it out, briefly introduced ourselves to each other, packed the trailers and were soon on our way to our first Land Art destination.

5:39 pm – Spiral Jetty and The Great Salt Lake • Rozel Point, Utah

I normally really dislike being in a car for long periods of time, but the three-hour trip to the Spiral Jetty went by easily. That was mostly due to the fact that Utah is stunningly beautiful. We drove through miles of vividly green grass, deep violet mountains, and the largest bright blue sky I’ve ever laid eyes on. Utah is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. Everything we saw- the livestock, the flora, and the random architecture- looked like things you only see in your computer desktop options. It was one of the few car rides in my life where my attention was almost completely geared to the road traveled. The drive, however, was only an appetizer for what was to come. Our first destination was Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Smithson is known as an important pioneer of the Land Art movement. In 1969, he took out a twenty-year lease on an abandoned industrial site on the Great Salt Lake to create one of the most celebrated works of all time. He converted the industrial wasteland destroyed by oil prospectors into a romantic artwork entitled The Spiral Jetty. The Jetty features a spiral road of black basalt stones and land jutting into the water of the lake, which was reddened by algae, bacteria and brine shrimp.

To be very honest, although the Spiral Jetty is incredibly unique, it was not as impressive as the land that accommodated it. Of all the places I’ve traveled to in my life, this area was one of the most beautiful. It was almost unreal. The Great Salt Lake sparkled like snow but wasn’t cold, and it felt like it was exfoliating my skin.  The shallow pools of water that surrounded the mounds of salt mirrored the cerulean skies and frothy white clouds above it. This landscape created a heavenly looking Great Salt Lake. It was amazing to walk through it and just have it envelop you. We camped on a mountain overlooking the Jetty, which was just as striking as the lake it overlooked. The dramatic dark stone mountain was embellished with charming little sunflower- like flora that covered it entirely. It just didn’t look real. At one point, I climbed the mountain and looked out at the space around me. I was amazed at all of the physical beauty and serenity around me; it was breathtaking. I thought about my home in New York and how I was so far away from that. So far away from the busy streets, the self-concerned people, and the media that fuels it all. Here I was, standing on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, with no wifi or cell phone service.  I am out of touch with Miley Cyrus’s twerking, Kim Kardashian’s weight gain, and unfortunately, even the crisis in Syria. Nothing can touch me here and only the earth’s natural beauty can affect me. I can’t believe I’m here.


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Photography Credit: Alexander Getty

Alexander Getty is a San Francisco based photographer with an immense passion for what he does. Having started at a very young age, Getty honed his craft learning from mentors, family members, and professors in Rome, London, and New York. He began his career in New York where he attended the School of Visual Arts while balancing a job at Getty Images. Today Getty lives and works as a professional photographer in San Francisco, California. His work has been featured in galleries and publications internationally.

Originally published on Promote & Preserve.