art pilgrimages, part I

I've made many art pilgrimages, sometimes traveling thousands of miles for a single artwork. Each work and journey left its imprint. Starting with my own proverbial backyard, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, I'm going to write a series of blog posts focusing on these pilgrimages. I am definitely a "the journey is as important as the destination" type, but I'm going to focus only on my experience with the work of art and its impact, for the sake of brevity.

About six months ago I made a mistake. Instead of checking the "Art Bulletin" box on my CAA renewal form, I checked "The Art Journal." In short The Bulletin is about art then and the Journal is about art now. I'm more interested in pre-nineteenth century art, but I thought the mistake may stretch my academic reading a bit. The Winter 2010 edition contains essays about contemporary land art, and I was pleasantly surprised because it fell in line with my other readings lately, namely Spiral Jetta by Erin Hogan.* In the introduction to The Art Journal Katy Siegel wrote: "Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and other Land artists looked back into prehistory, imagining an epochal stretch so long and slow that it hardly moved, so vast that human civilization was just a flicker in its expanse." For days afterward I ruminated over her words and how they rang true about Spiral Jetty and my own experience with it. After almost three hours in the car (with two five-month-old twins, mind you. I told you I was serious about experiencing art) and a twenty minute delay by a herd of horses surrounding the car, my adventurous father and I arrived at The Jetty on a clear, warm November morning. What struck me most about The Jetty was how silent it was. You could hear nothing. No hums or buzzings, car horns or clocks ticking. I was aware of my own breathing, my heart beating, and standing there on the great salt flats it was a very centered moment. It felt not timeless but out of time - like Siegel said, time was so slow and long it hardly moved. Paintings only involve one of the five senses, but land art involves all of them. I can honestly say that visiting The Spiral Jetty was a transformative event for me, and not because I have been 'properly prepared' for it. I actually thought it might be boring. In a world that can change with the death of a single man, remembering The Jetty and that centered feeling always brings quiet to my soul.

*Didn't enjoy it. I think she was trying to channel some Steinbeck Travels with Charley, but her voice just sounded affected.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps selecting the "Art Journal" was a happy mistake! I wish that I could keep up with reading CAA publications. I still have four editions of the "Art Bulletin" on my bookshelf, waiting to be opened for the first time.

    I loved reading your experience with the Jetty. I went there on a relatively crowded day, but was still in awe of the artwork. It's very beautiful, and I like the quote you mentioned about the connection of the piece with prehistory. Very true.