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Land Arts of the American West

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Land Arts of the American West is a field program investigating the intersection of geomorphology and human construction. Land art or earthworks begin with the land and extend through the complex social and ecological processes that create landscape. Including everything from petroglyphs to roads, dwellings, monuments and traces of those actions, earthworks show us who we are. Examining gestures small and grand, Land Arts directs our attention from potsherd, cigarette butt, and track in the sand, to human settlements, monumental artworks, and military-industrial installations.


Each year Land Arts travels more than 6,000 miles to live and work for over fifty days in the landscape while visiting sites such as Chaco Canyon, Roden Crater, the Grand Canyon, Double Negative, Spiral Jetty, the Wendover Complex of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Cabinetlandia, Marfa, the Very Large Array and The Lightning Field.


Land Arts situates our work within a continuous tradition of land-based operations that is thousands of years old. Analysis of sites visited provides a basis for dialog and invention. Issues of spatial and material vocabulary, constructional logics, and inhabitation serve as the foundation for an investigation through making. Students construct, detail, and document a series of site-base interventions in a context that places emphasis on processes of making, experiential forms of knowing, and interdisciplinary modes of practice. The immersive nature of how we experience the landscape triggers an amalgamated body of inquiry where students have the opportunity of time and space to develop authority in their work through direct action and reflection. Land Arts hinges on the primacy of first person experience and the realization that human-land relationships are rarely singular.


Land Arts was founded in 2000 at the University of New Mexico by Bill Gilbert with the assistance of John Wenger. From 2001 to 2007 the program developed as a collaboration between Bill Gilbert and Chris Taylor, then at the University of Texas at Austin. Now Gilbert and Taylor operate the program autonomously at the University of New Mexico and Texas Tech University. For information about the program at UNM see http://landarts.unm.edu/. In January of 2009 the Nevada Museum of Art announced the creation of the new Center for Art + Environment and the acquisition of the archive of Land Arts of the American West.


Operational and curricular material about Land Arts at Texas Tech can be found on this site with the program links below. The program archive and additional material can be found on the soon to be updated website at http://landarts.org. Please contact Chris Taylor for any additional information.


Texas Tech program links