07 November 2009

Women and land art

Revisiting yesterday's essay plan in the light of Olga's comment, I realised that not only had I omitted to define "land art"/"earth art", my chosen artists were all western white men. What about sites and artists not in or from the US or Europe? What about women?

Some women land artists come to mind immediately - Nancy Holt, best known for her Sun Tunnels (1973-6) - this is the iconic image, but have a look at others here -Mary Miss (Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys, 1977-8) -Maya Lin's wave fields (video here) -hmm, bit of a pause now ... no others come to mind ... bear with me while I do some research...

Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon (of "Christo and Jeanne-Claude" fame) - here's their Gates in Central Park, New York -Agnes Denes (Wheatfield - A Confrontation, 1982) - here's the 2009 version in London -Alice Aycock, with her "unerring ability to convey contradictory notions within a single sculpture" (NY Times, 1990). Her early proposals for earthworks are body-sized and body-related, and many of her early works paly upon fears and fantasies of burial. "Low Building with Dirt Roof for Mary" (1973) can only be entered by crawling; she wrote that "The sense of claustrophobia inside is increased by the knowledge that the exterior surface of the roof is covered by a mound of earth ([weighing] approximately 7 tons)." Cuban artist Ana Mendieta and her "earth body art" (using body to direct our attention not only to the landscape itself, but also to how it is experienced) -perhaps even Tacita Dean in her "Search for the Spiral Jetty" 1997 - one of a number of recent artists who have embraced the making of journeys as part of their practice - inspired by the way in which the siting of works in remote locations brought the journey to see them into the compass of the work (I'm quoting from Ben Tufnell's "Land Art", Tate Publishing 2006).

That publication also says "while earthworks constituted a male-dominated genre, in the field of body and landscape art a number of female artists were prominent". Mendieta we've briefly looked at; "both Miss and Aycock attempted to create 'real-time and real-space scenarios' through sculptural and architectural works that the audience might enter and interact with, thus creating a kind of stage for participation and experience."

So, to get to the definition of the genre - land art is about more than earthworks, it's about the experience of the land. It needn't consist of interventions - and often the "art product" is documentation.

Which takes me back to Olga's question: how would Aboriginal art fit into this? My first thought is that Aboriginal identity is so tied up with the land, and permitted art arises from those ties, that this would be better considered under essay question number 4: "Drawing on specific examples, discuss the ways in which historical and contemporary creative practitioners explore issues of personal/group and/or cultural identity." However this article mentions Yukultji Napangati, who "paints an insider's view of the land, conveying a deep empathy with place and emphasising the process of painting from within her lifetime experience of that place and its stories" - though to an outsider the painting is reminiscent of modern abstraction.The research also turned up some "land art"/"ecological art" sites in South Africa, and an Australian artist, Andrew Rogers, whose “Rhythms of Life” project is said to be the largest contemporary land-art undertaking in the world, consisting of geoglyphs (stone sculptures) in 12 sites around the globe -


lisette said...

margaret there is also judy watson's work - she is an Aboriginal painter who often places wet canvas directly on the ground and applies pigment directly to it, following the contours of the earth

fascinating topic :)

Olga Norris said...

Oh dear. That's the trouble with these interesting topics! After seeing the Richard Long exhibition I paddled at the edge of the vast ocean of land art. In a way, now, it is rather like saying one is going to investigate painting. The area is so large that I find it needs deliberately to be sub-divided and examined thus before beginning to be able to get a handle on the whole.
I have decided to go back to looking at depictions of the landscape before I return to my RL-inspired paddlings. At least, I've added that to my list of 'must get round to doing's!