A few weeks back we took another trip to the southwest. There is something about the place itself that is clear, calm and warm. The colors are finding their way into my work and I now am starting to understand why Santa Fe (and the southwest in general) is such a pull for artists and creative types.  The main reason we went was to see Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field – a land art installation from the late 70’s located in the middle of the desert.

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We spent a day on Canyon Road, (really you can spend all day in the galleries – there are that many) and saw a lot of interesting work. Heather Capen’s industrial paintings with the thick palette knifed paint,  Daniel Brice’s works on paper and Renata Aller’s humbling and heart stopping photographs of the sea. I stood in front of Aller’s photographs for a long while — it was truly like being at the ocean — in a magical, time-stopped way. I couldn’t escape the gallery without buying a book of her work. If you haven’t been to Santa Fe to see the art – stop doing whatever you are doing and go.

After our time in Santa Fe we set off through the desert to the town of Quemado – about a 4 hour drive. The drive takes you through the Malpais National Monument – which is some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen.

The Lightning Field

I made it a point of not looking for photos of the lightning field before we went to see it — I wanted to keep my reaction unclouded — I wanted to be able to experience it as I think I was meant to. When it was built (or completed rather) in 1977 – a few weeks before I was born – the internet obviously didn’t exist so there wasn’t a way to experience it any other way than by visiting it. It is one of the few places I have been in my life where I don’t know where it is, I could not get back there by myself again, and I was only allowed to stay for a set amount of time – for a set purpose. It is like a hidden art monastery in the desert – or at least that is how it felt to me. You can hear the silence there. Your phone for some reason loses all of it’s battery power very quickly. There isn’t need for thinking or planning, much is taken out of your control. There is only the land, the sky, and 400 steel rods standing as sentinels in the vast New Mexico desert.

The first question you get when you explain the installation to others is, “Did you see any lightning?” This isn’t the right question to be asking. “What was your experience?” would be more apt. It was about much more than lightning – for me it involved perspective, light, shifting sight, silence, the environment and our place in the world. It was an extremely centering and balancing experience. And I’ve never seen so many stars in my life – not even in the farmland of Nebraska.

I hope to return to the Lightning Field again in this lifetime — once was not enough.

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