Sunday, September 15th

Land Art - Journal Entry No. 2

9:07 am – Spiral Jetty •  Rozel Point, Utah

Last night was my first time camping and thankfully, it wasn’t as rough as I imagined it being (although it definitely was for some people). While walking over to our tent, Naomi, a British artist, and I came across a wild animal. This animal was a gorgeous gray and yellow snake, and as we shone a light upon it, it swiftly slithered away from us - Naomi gasped, I stared in amazement. I never saw a snake in the wild, especially one that large. I thought it was so cool. Unfortunately, not everyone sees wild reptiles in the same way as I do; I received unfavorable reactions to the news I presented to the other campers. Telling them was the stupidest thing I could’ve done. I scared the shit out of everyone. One of our tent-mates, Sheenagh, was so startled that she decided to sleep in the van. Most of the others slept in fear and talked about it until they fell asleep.

I slept alright, but the feeling of uncleanliness did not sit well with me. I hated not being able to shower last night or this morning. Brushing my teeth proved difficult, as no matter where I tried to do it, flies would follow. Above all, going to the bathroom was the most uncomfortable event. It meant you needed to find a rock to squat behind or you had to use the pop-up toilet tent we set up; while it provided privacy, it made everyone aware of what you were doing. Like a dog, its use required you to leave with a small garbage bag filled with your emissions.  I’m unsure if it’s something I can ever get used to.

This morning as I helped pack up the campsite, I talked to my tent-mate, Alex Getty. Alex is a photographer based in San Francisco. While rolling up sleeping bags, he questioned the background behind my work. “So how did you start writing?” he asked. It’s weird. In all the years I’ve been writing, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question, so I was a bit unsure how to answer it. “Well, I’ve been telling stories all of my life, I guess,” I replied. Further into the conversation, I explained not being full-time writer, that I must throw in a few other jobs to support myself, but that I wish I could live solely off of it. “For a while, I had to do the same,” he told me. “I had a professional office job for 7 years, and 3 years ago, I was finally able to make photography my full time career. It takes time; just don’t give up.” Alex is almost thirty years old, so it was encouraging to hear that there really is no time limit for passion to become more than just pursuit.

7:49 pm – Sun Tunnels • Northwest, Utah 

We drove through nowhere to get to the Sun Tunnels, which are also in the middle of nowhere. We are so much in nowhere that when I asked our group leaders what region of Utah we’re in, they informed me that this area doesn’t really have a name because we’re in the middle of nowhere. Driving to the Spiral Jetty yesterday, I said that we were driving through miles of nothing, but I was mistaken. Our current location actually required us to travel through miles and miles of nothing. Unlike the drive to the Spiral Jetty, our drive to the Sun Tunnels held no form of life whatsoever. No humans. No animals. No trees. No grass. There was nothing in view other than dirt and dust bunnies that make up the land.

When we arrived, none of us seemed to eager to exit the van. From a distance, the Sun Tunnels did not look so impressive. Slowly but surely, we left the car and entered into the dry, hot heat.  As we walked closer to the piece, I became more interested. To someone who was completely unaware of the Sun Tunnel’s purpose, Nancy Holt’s work may just seem like randomly left behind construction cylinders, but knowing what these cylinders are meant to do changes their appeal entirely.

Nancy Holt scoured America’s Southwest in search of the perfect place to present her concept. She landed on northwest Utah by Lucin, an abandoned railroad town. Many believed that the land was completely useless, but Holt saw its potential. She ended up buying forty acres of the land, which would soon be home to the Sun Tunnels. With a team of scientists and contractors, her conception was erected. Although a work of art, Holt also had a valuable purpose for this project. Together, the cylinders serve as a calendar that is based entirely on the sun’s position in the sky. The “useless” land was perfect for the endeavor, as it was flat and barren. There is nothing to distract you from her work, not even cell phone reception or wifi. 

Although I was told not to compare Holt’s art to Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, I couldn’t help it. With Spiral Jetty, I was far more impressed and attracted to the beautiful landscape surrounding the piece than I was the actual jetty. Smithson’s piece only added to the natural landscape, it did not take attention away from it. It’s almost as if Smithson was inviting people to come to a part of the earth they would have never thought of going to otherwise. 

Likewise, Nancy Holt invites people to a place they would have never gone to on their own. The difference is that an astoundingly beautiful environment does not surround the Sun Tunnels. There are no flowers or sparkling salt mounds here, just acres of dry dirt and flatland. You cannot help but be immediately attracted to Holt’s work; you have no choice. And what I find most incredible about the Sun Tunnels is its location. There are people from both near and far who actually make the venture to visit it. That includes Utah’s citizens; the same ones who said the land was useless are the same who make the trek to see it. Holt gave this empty land something no one thought was possible- purpose. That is art in itself.

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.