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A Field of Lightning
July 28, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

The Lightning Field in New Mexico was one of the first earth art installations when it was installed back in the 70's. 30 years later it still stands and turns even the time you spend there into art. Here's an account by Pamela Petro of her time spent there.
posted by workinggringa (26 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the article:
(It's not smart to be surrounded by 400 lightning rods in a storm.)
I thought the idea was that you *could* walk around the Lightning Field when the lightning was playing in it?

I've always wanted to visit but there was an 18-month waiting list the last time I checked. I should just sign up!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:45 AM on July 28, 2007


Cool, never heard of this before. I'd love to spend a long, pointless day wandering about in it.

If you're worried about getting hit by lightning, just bring your 2-iron. Not even God can hit a 2-iron.
posted by sidereal at 9:46 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Checking the site reservation page, they upped the prices considerably, but there isn't any mention of a waiting list (the last time I checked was not long after it opened, I should have realized the crowds wouldn't still be there...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:47 AM on July 28, 2007


No pictures?

sidereal: I believe the quote is 'Only God can hit a 2-iron'.
Big difference.
posted by MtDewd at 10:32 AM on July 28, 2007


So, can you walk around in there during a lightning storm or what? If you can't, isn't it just a bunch of metal poles?
posted by Justinian at 10:32 AM on July 28, 2007


oh, ye of little artistic sensibilities...

no, it's just a bunch of birthday candles in the desert...
posted by workinggringa at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2007


If you can't make it to Lightning Field and happen to be in or near NYC check out De Maria's permanent installations there: The Broken Kilometer and The Earth Room, both maintained by The Dia Art Foundation. I find the former to be fundamentally cerebral, the latter fundamentally visceral. YMMV.
posted by The Bellman at 11:00 AM on July 28, 2007


I'd love to go see the Lightning Field. Also Spiral Jetty.
posted by silby at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2007


The Lightning Field is protected by copyright. Photography of the sculpture and the cabin is not permitted.

Yet another incredible perversion of copyright.
posted by IronLizard at 11:12 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


sidereal: I believe the quote is 'Only God can hit a 2-iron'.

I'll believe it when I see it.

The Lightning Field is protected by copyright. Photography of the sculpture and the cabin is not permitted.
Yet another incredible perversion of copyright.


That's a jaw dropper all right. Any lawyers here that can say if this is legal and/or enforceable? Private property or something?
posted by sidereal at 11:17 AM on July 28, 2007


MtDewd...maybe God *can* hit a 2-iron, but not a 1-iron:

"If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron."

Lee Trevino
(hit by lightning but formerly in the Marine Corps, so tough enough to take it.)
posted by Wink Ricketts at 11:18 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Lightning Field is protected by copyright. Photography of the sculpture and the cabin is not permitted. Commissioned, copyrighted slides are available for $30.00...

Yeah, stopped reading and caring at this point.
posted by scheptech at 12:24 PM on July 28, 2007


That's a jaw dropper all right. Any lawyers here that can say if this is legal and/or enforceable? Private property or something?

IANAL, but I hear they've (copyright holders, not necessarily the infamous 'they') successfully used this 'loophole' on buildings and other objects.
posted by IronLizard at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2007


Was there about five years ago. Worth it just to stay in the cabin in the middle of the nowhere for 24hrs. The field is like a crop circle build by real aliens. As disorienting as seeing an acre of corn growing in midtown Manhattan.

Dry county though, so BYO.
posted by gwint at 1:38 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


You can get a cabin in the middle of nowhere for a lot less than the price listed on the webpage, with fewer restrictions and not being forced to share it with strangers. Believe it or not, nature is beautiful even without evenly spaced metal poles sticking out of the ground.
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:04 PM on July 28, 2007


As I remember it, it cost us about $40 each. We had to park our cars in this little town and then they gave us a ride in a 4x4. It took about 45 minutes of off-road driving to get us to the cabin. Inside the cabin there was food for the night (tasty homemade enchiladas I believe) I was there with my girlfriend and two other friends, so we had the place to ourselves. We had started the trip in NYC so had done a whole bunch of middle of nowhere camping, but, yeah, we thought the metal poles sticking out of the ground were cool. YMMV.
posted by gwint at 2:22 PM on July 28, 2007


If it's private property they have the right to say "no cameras". But if you're not on their property -- say you're in an airplane 1000 feet the ground -- there's nothing they can do.

Here's the Google Earth view. Unfortunately the resolution isn't high enough to see buildings etc. (The next time I'm flying in New Mexico I'll be heading over to 34.512812 N 108.10683 W to take a few pictures.)
posted by phliar at 2:23 PM on July 28, 2007


The Broken Kilometer and The Earth Room, both maintained by The Dia Art Foundation. I find the former to be fundamentally cerebral, the latter fundamentally visceral.

The Bellman - mileage match here. Those two works still stand out in terms of art directly experienced (by my teen self) 20+ years on from my innumerable Soho gallery afternoons.

(Oh and: aside from Cory D pissing on the photography thing, in this interview, John Cliett, the guy who took the official photographs, actually raises some really interesting points.)
posted by progosk at 3:35 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Plus, finally, Ethan Zuckerman on the photography issue - and some artists' sketches of the place.
posted by progosk at 3:43 PM on July 28, 2007


progosk

Your essay etc links are a terrific addition. Thanks.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:08 PM on July 28, 2007


Hey, thanks to MtDewd and Wink Ricketts for the corrections, and especially for the cite.
posted by sidereal at 5:51 PM on July 28, 2007


$250 for peak months, and $150 on off months to VISIT? For that price, I should be able to install my own lightning rod.
posted by Balisong at 6:58 PM on July 28, 2007


From progosk's interview link, it sounds like hanging around during a storm might not be the best idea:

You mentioned before that you were struck by lighting?

Yes. That particular day, the day of the big pictures—the one with the single branching thing and the double—there were, I think, five storms. I remember that particular day, I shot every piece of film I had. It was a very busy day. In the middle of the day, a storm came over the field and it struck my vehicle. It was like a bomb went off. I got this horrible headache and all of the polarities on the camera were reversed from positive to negative. And the radio burned out. So I know it hit the truck, or if not directly, at least a pole in the area. At the time it struck, it was raining so hard you couldn’t see.

posted by nevercalm at 8:26 PM on July 28, 2007


John Cliett, the guy who took the official photographs, actually raises some really interesting points

The point about experiencing the Lightning Field in an unmediated way is very relevant. Re. the woman in the rain, it sounds as if Cliett missed an amazing experience, because he was fiddling with his cameras at the time. There's some photos of the installation on Flickr, and it looks pretty hard to capture in any meaningful way, anyway.
posted by carter at 11:09 PM on July 28, 2007


I would love to visit the Lightening Field. I don't think this art installation needs lightening to make it worthwhile to visit.

However, the Bosque del Apache costs a $3 entrance fee (unofficial site) and you can take all the pictures you want.

Also consider the The Valles Caldera .
posted by jabo at 11:42 PM on July 28, 2007


Random thoughts from a native New Mexican...

New Mexico leads the US in per capita lightning deaths.

In the mountains above Socorro is the premiere publicly-funded US lightning laboratory, Langmuir Lab, associated with New Mexico Tech. They do a lot of neat stuff there, including triggered lightning.

Also nearby, of course, is the US's National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array, also with an association with Tech.

Quemado is a tiny little right at the northern edge of the Gila National Forest, the sixth largest national forest in the continental US, and also contains the first and one fo the largest US wilderness area, the Gila Wilderness, and also the Aldo Leopold Wilderness.

My maternal great-grandparents homesteaded some land in Quemado. When my grandmother was in her early teens, they moved to Albuquerque.

The Gila National Forest and the whole southwest portion of New Mexico is relatively remote from anywhere except El Paso, and it's still a long way from El Paso. For that reason, it's easily the least visited of the national forests of New Mexico. My dad, uncles, and myself fished in the area only a few times when I was younger. We usually go north to near the NM/Colorado state line. But I really enjoyed the deep isolation in the Gila and wished we had spent more time there. Back when I was able, I hiked many of the wilderness areas in New Mexico, but not the Gila. I had always planned on it, but my disabling disease caught up with me.

Pie from the Pio-O-Neer Cafe in Pie Town is worth it. Also along the way is the best green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico at the Owl Cafe in tiny San Antonio...the home of Conrad Hilton, by the way. It's a looonng way from there to Paris.

The sky in New Mexico truly is wondrous. I don't really know what combination of elements it is that makes the sky and light in New Mexico so beautiful and unique, even across the different geography of the southwest and the north/northeast—but it really is. That's why there's so many artist colonies.

The Bosque del Apache wildlife preserve, also along the way to Quemado, as jabo says, is really worth a trip if you like birds. I'm not a birdwatcher, but seeing one of the few whooping cranes in the world is worth it.

Jabo mentions the Valles Caldera, which is one of my favorite places, but it's in the north part of the state and not in the region we're discussing here. It's one of the larger calderas in the world, the true scope of which is best viewed in a satellite map. The valley formed by the caldera is a beautiful, lush green meadow in the high mountains near Los Alamos. So many people visit Santa Fe, but not that many take the short trip west across the Rio Grande valley into the mountains to Los Alamos and then deeper up and then down in the Valles Caldera. It's worth it the next time you're out that way.

And if you are, send me an email. You're welcome to stop by.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:08 AM on July 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


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