Enlightening the Lightning Field

Double vision...
Double vision...

The path to success is not always a pretty one.  Recently at the Berkeley Art Center, art critic Kenneth Baker discussed his book The Lightning Field and shared his path to literary acclaim.  His book is based on the long term installation by artist Walter De Maria located in southwestern New Mexico.

The Lighting Field is a 2 ½ to 3-hour drive from Albuquerque.  The large land installation includes 400 stainless steel poles installed in a grid pattern measuring one mile by one kilometer.  According to the Dia Art Foundation website: “The poles — two inches in diameter and averaging 20 feet and 7½ inches in height — are spaced 220 feet apart and have solid pointed tips that define a horizontal plane.  A sculpture to be walked in as well as viewed, The Lightning Field is intended to be experienced over an extended period of time.  A full experience of The Lightning Field does not depend upon the occurrence of lightning, and visitors are encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the field, especially during sunset and sunrise.”

Kenneth Baker visited The Lighting Field numerous times over 30 years to write about the installation.  It took decades and multiple publication failures to see his book realized.  Baker states: “De Maria’s masterpiece is an abstract vision of modern history as the drive of human curiosity into causally charged fields of our home planet and beyond.  As his epigraph implies, this vision draws some of is power from the physical isolation of those who experience it.  The Lighting Field’s open structure is a void to which our overfed nervous systems and imaginations react with spasms: American culture does not tolerate a vacuum.”

Because The Lighting Field is located in a high desert elevation of 7200 feet, rain can make the ground very muddy and temperatures can fluctuate from cold to warm.  Kenneth Baker was able to decode the piece making the stigma of the unknown become familiar and secure.  Great art and writing isn’t always obvious at first glance until you’ve been given the gift of time to sit and digest.  Baker’s writing wants you to experience instead of forget.

Baker: “So it’s that endless opportunity for discovery that keeps me interested. I’m continually surprised by what I see.”

Thank you for making me want to see.







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