Saturday, December 11, 2010

Larger Than Life

This week I thought I would take a look at art that is larger than life.  Like anything else that I do, I took it to an extreme.  So without further ado, let us take a look at some works, both intentional and not, which qualify for that name.

If we're talking about larger-than-life art, obviously the first place we turn is Robert Smithson's, "Spiral Jetty."  It is an earthwork sculpture built into the Great Salt Lake from Rozel Point.  For people unfamiliar with this work, it is a man-made causeway 15 feet wide and 1,500 feet long reaching into the lake.  Quite obviously, this is a large piece of art, but why do I consider it to be larger than life?  A few reasons.  Size, of course, is one of them, but there is more to it than that.  Spiral Jetty was built in 1970 from locally available materials - mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks, earth, and water.  Somehow, though, this creation drawn from common materials becomes more than the sum of its parts.  The water isn't just water, it is an extraordinary substance in and of its self, since it appears blood red from algae that grows in the salt waters of the lake.

I also adore the spiral because it is a living thing.  The level of the lake has to be rather low, as in a drought year, for it to even be visible.  In addition to that, being constantly submerged into the brine of the lake for years at a time has gradually altered the appearance of the jetty, from it's original stark black basalt on the red of the lake, to a white salty crust on the ever changing pink waters of the lake.  All of these things along with the bold visual and the sheer magnetism, make this one of my favorite large earthworks.

Second on my list deserves a shout-out to Garth Johnson over at Extreme Craft.  Last month he did an article on artist Ai WeiWei and her collaboration with craftspeople from Jingdezhen, China to create a mind boggling 150 TONS of life-like ceramic sunflower seeds.  Linked here.  Can you even imagine the enormity of such a project?  Organizing it, managing it, bringing it to fruition, keeping track of all of those individual pieces?  (all 100 Million of them!!)  I said it once and I will say it again - this boggles me.  To go to such detailed lengths for something so simple, awesome and beautiful makes me happy in so many ways.

One more thing for me to leave you with - unintentional art on a grand scale.  Defining the outer limits of what art is tends to be very difficult.  There is a lot of gray area out there.  These partially completed and/or abandoned subdivisions in Florida as seen from Google Earth make my list for "found art" on a grand scale.  Take a look through them and let me know - are they art?  Human Landscapes in SW Flordia - Via The Big Picture.

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