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BellaOnline's Art Appreciation Editor

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The Spiral As Art - Smithson's 'Spiral Jetty'


The spiral is an ancient form, symbolizing eternity. Recreated in art, American sculptor Robert Smithson’s famous earthwork 'Spiral Jetty' is now threatened.

The spiral is an ancient form, symbolizing eternity.
Recreated in art, Robert Smithson’s famous earthwork 'Spiral Jetty' (1970) is now threatened due to proposed oil drilling in the area.

Located on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, this earthwork/land art by Smithson is a counterclockwise coil measuring 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide. Not only was this most primitive of forms made of native materials: basalt rocks, salt crystals, mud, soil and water, but the Minimalist artist chose Rozel Point in Utah because of the primordial water. The distinct red color of the lake is due to the presence of algae and bacteria.

The very idea of being able to view this installation art (or not) depends on the water levels. At the time of its construction, there was a drought which caused the water level to be low. For the next thirty years the jetty was submerged due to normal water levels, then a drought in 2004 caused it to re-emerge again. This ebbing and flowing causes for a most interesting work of art.

Robert Smithson died three years after completing "Spiral Jetty." In 1999, his estate donated the monumental work to the Dia Art Foundation of New York.

Recently, there has been controversy over the fate of "Spiral Jetty" because of proposed oil drilling. Area wildlife is also at risk. At the time of the publication of this Bellaonline.com Art Appreciation article, permission was postponed.

To learn more about this earthwork, I know you’ll enjoy reading "Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty," available here from Amazon.com.


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Content copyright © 2013 by Camille Gizzarelli. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.

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