The Lightning Field
|Lightning Field, photo by Walter De Maria|
The Lightning Field (1977) is a land art work in Catron County, New Mexico, by sculptor Walter De Maria. It consists of 400 stainless steel poles with solid, pointed tips, arranged in a rectangular 1 mile × 1 kilometre grid array.
It was commissioned by Dia Art Foundation, which also maintains the work. De Maria and his assistants—Robert Fosdick and Helen Winkler were the principal associates—scoured California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Texas by truck for over five years before settling on the site, 11.5 miles (18.5 km) east of the continental divide, elevation 7,200 feet. Set in the middle of an empty plateau 7200 feet above sea level, 400 stainless steel poles are placed in the form of a grid. The grid measures 1 mile by 1 kilometer, and the poles are set 220 feet apart from one another. Because the land undulates slightly, the poles - two inches in diameter - vary in height: the shortest is 15 feet and the longest is 26 feet 9 inches. The poles are several times higher than an average person, and the tops end up on a plane level parallel to the ground regardless of the terrain the pole was erected in. Each steel rod is set in its own concrete footing, three feet deep and one foot in diameter, buried one foot beneath the surface. They are designed to survive winds of up to 110 miles (180 km) an hour.
Support for maintaining and operating The Lightning Field is provided in part by an endowment established by Ray A. Graham III and Lannan Foundation, which awarded a challenge grant in 1996. Support towards the permanent preservation of the undeveloped grasslands surrounding the installation has in the past been provided by Dia's Board of Trustees, the State of New Mexico, De Maria's assistant Helen Winkler Fosdick, and Gucci.
By 2012, the structure as a whole needed reinforcement. To scrape together additional funds of an estimated $400,000 to preserve Lightning Field, Larry Gagosian, whose gallery represents De Maria, and Miuccia Prada have come together to lead the restoration effort. Work on the Lightning Field began in early 2013, and the sculpture reopened in June.
Featured in publications
The Lightning Field featured prominently in the novel Blinded by the Light by Morgan Hunt. This work might also have influenced the imagery of author Cormac McCarthy's epilogue in his book Blood Meridian. It is also the subject of a 2011 New Yorker article by Geoff Dyer called Poles Apart. David Ulin discusses the work as a narrative which "unfolds not as a fixed encounter but rather as something that gets inside us in a more sequential way."
Open for only six months out of the year, the installation can only be visited by making an advance reservation for an overnight stay in the simple accommodations at the site. Trips to the site consist of a long drive from a scheduled meeting place to a log cabin in the area. The installation is intended to be viewed in isolation or with a very small group of people, so the cabin on the site, in serious disrepair when the project began, was restored to accommodate six people at most. There are two bathrooms, a kitchen and a common room. Camping is not permitted.
- Blake Gopnik (August 13, 2009). "Walter de Maria's 'Lightning Field' Encompasses a Vast New Mexican Vista". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Cornelia Dean (September 21, 2003), Drawn to the Lightning New York Times.
- Todd Gibson (July 25, 2004). "A Pilgrimage to The Lightning Field". Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- The Lightning Field - Funding Dia Art Foundation.
- Gucci and Dia Art Foundation Gucci.
- Carol Vogel (June 7, 2012), Campaign Aims to Restore Weather-Abused ‘Lightning Field’ New York Times.
- http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/journal/PDFs/Campbell.pdf Walter De Maria's Lightning Field and McCarthy's Enigmatic Epilogue: "Y que clase de lugar es este?"
- Geoff Dyer (April 18, 2011). "Poles Apart". The New Yorker. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Ulin, David L. (2010), The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, Sasquatch, pp. 74–75, ISBN 9781570616709
- Official website
- Photo gallery by Walter De Maria
- "Walter de Maria “Lightning Field”". Accessible Art Blog. 17 September, 2010. Retrieved November 2013.