Walter de Maria 1936- 2013
Death, often sheds light on past experiences. We come to remember through experiential associations the landscapes and impressionable vistas open to the vast expanses of America's west, as is the case for me. Though, having not been to The Lightning Field specifically, I've constructed my own personal and mental images of it's place from conversations with friends who have been there and a familiarity with the environment and landscape having traveled by car through that part of the New Mexican region on numerous trips. It's sparseness is serenely beautiful, at times overwhelming in a petrified calm and at other times ravaged by the natural forces that perhaps played a role in de Maria's choice in this particular spot- giving inspiration and clear conception in what would be called 'The Lightning Field' in rural western New Mexico.
The Lightning Field
was a man of the city and its constructed and organization influences. DeMaria also had an uncanny eye for conceptual integration within the expanses of a high desert plateau. It was a curious pairing of urban vision, oddly and meticulously placed against the randomness of unfettered wilderness. The Lightning Field (1977) installation is of a scale challenging to comprehend. It stands at 1 mile long by 1 km wide- arranged as a grid of stainless steel rods, 2 inches in diameter each. The 400 rods in total were carefully spaced equally apart at a distance of 220 feet. In total area, they establish a preceptively level plane at top elevation, consistent, even though the land covering this vast distance has slight terrain variations and by necessity the slender steel poles were varied in lengths to make up for the lands rise and fall.
The Lightning Field will remain there certainly for decades to come- if not longer by the will of dedicated organizations ensuring its longevity. It waits for those of us still eager for a visit but who have yet to set aside the time essentials for such an extended journey in finding its place in the isolated wilderness.
In its timelessness, it succumbs only to the whims of personal anticipation; waiting and longing for the next storm and in death we remember its continuation, conceived in both city and nature.