Monthly Mentor

Jody Boyer (August)
Jody Boyer is a visual artist and arts educator originally from Portland, Oregon. In her studio practice she explores the broad interdisciplinary possibilities of traditional and new media with a specific interest in personal memory, cinema, landscape and a sense of place. She received her B.A. in Studio Arts from Reed College, her M.A. in Intermedia and Video Art from the University of Iowa, and her K-12 teaching certificate at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Her artwork has been shown in over 25 exhibitions across the country. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« September 2016 | Main | November 2016 »

Friday 10.28.16

What inspires you in your own art practice?

Imagine what it must have been like for artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson to see the landscapes that would eventually hold their artworks for the first time. What did they think and dreamed about?

What inspires you in your own art practice?

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Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson were among an early group of artists who began creating artwork in the land in the late 1960s. They were interested in creating art outside of gallery and museum systems that are not easily categorized or defined, envisioning new ways of thinking about and experiencing art. It is important to note, that these artists were not working in isolation. They knew each other, traveled and worked together. Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson were married and were important collaborators and contributors to each other’s work. The essence of Holt and Smithson’s work at this time was exploring and illuminating the periphery, spaces that are far away, often unwanted, difficult to get to and find.

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Nancy Holt (1938- 2014)

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Nancy Holt’s large body of work is extremely diverse and she is known for photography, video, sculpture, and installation work. As demonstrated in Sun Tunnels, Holt was interested in light, perspective, time, and space. Her obsession with sightlines and viewpoints is seen over and over again throughout her work, playing with ideas of framing, a camera, and lens.

Image 5 - Nancy Holt, Views Through a Sand Dune, 1972

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Robert Smithson (1938 – 1973)

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Robert Smithson was interested in earth and animal forms, mineralogy, science fiction, geology and time. His large body of artwork throughout his short life includes writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, film and photography. Smithson was interested in the second law of thermodynamics that discusses entropy - the concept that nature moves from order to disorder. Imagine if left alone, what would Spiral Jetty look like in a hundred years, a thousand, a million? Do you think it would look the same or different than it did when it was built in 1970 or even today? Might entropy have anything to do with this?

Image 8 - Robert Smithson, Buried Angel, 1962
One of my favorite things I do each year is explore Land art in Utah with students; this is also some of my most challenging work. Transportation, administrative support, class schedules, and testing all are formidable opponents to field trips, especially all-day trips to sites that are hours away on dirt roads. Currently, we are only able to provide student trips to Spiral Jetty because it is a little easier to access than Sun Tunnels, but I hope to do trips with students to each site in the coming years. We have found that working with administrators and teachers to create partnerships and collaborations provide more buy-in on these experiences. We also pay for transportation, provide curricula for on-site lessons and activities, and cover all costs for supplies and snacks. On site, we have discussions about Smithson’s work, Spiral Jetty, and Land arts’ place in the history of visual culture. Students explore the site through different lessons including, Portrait of Place (I’ve included it below), where they gather different materials they find on-site into vials. They curate their vials and display them in a sculpture to create a portrait of Spiral Jetty and its landscape. This curricula is standard-aligned and promotes a focused exploration of the artwork and site.

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>> Portrait of Place Lesson Plan by Annie Burbidge Ream

As we have explored this month, the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s primary goal as a steward of Land art in Utah is to provide education and access to these incredible works of art. Through community meet-ups, family programming, and K-12 resources, our hope is to give people the information and incentive they need to get out and explore Utah’s wild places. I hope the posts this month has been informative and have inspired a deeper look at Land art for you and your classroom or institution. If you have been to these sites before, visit them again, and if you haven’t – start planning your adventure now! Feel free to contact the UMFA with questions or to learn more about Land art and using it in your teaching. It’s been great writing about Land art this month, but now I have an itch to get out and explore these amazing places again! See you in the desert!

-ABR

Friday 10.21.16

Planning Your Meet-Up: The Power of Climate and its Effects on a Landscape

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

How might experiencing Land art be different depending on the season?
If you could pick a time of year to visit these sites when would it be?

Works of art like Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty highlight the dynamism and rapid changes of Utah’s landscape. Clear skies quickly turn dark; water levels engulf a lakebed and then disappear. To me, one of the most exciting things about Land art is no matter how many times you visit these places each experience is completely different and new.

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Sun Tunnels can be severely hot in the summer or a muddy mess during spring showers. During this past April’s meet-up most of the cars were stuck in the mud after a series of heavy rainstorms, and as we were pushing cars, I looked up to notice my friend and colleague’s hair standing straight up in the air. After commenting how cool it looked, we both yelled, “LIGHTNING!!!” and ran and tripped through the mud as fast as we could to the safety of the car. Exploring Land art means embracing the idea that you never know exactly what nature is going to hand you.

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Robert Smithson completed Spiral Jetty in 1970 and shortly after it was submerged by flooding waters only to re-emerge in the early 2000s. Today, due to drought, the water is a fifteen-minute walk down the lakebed from the artwork, the rocks of Spiral Jetty covered not by water but salt and sand. In the spring and summer, thousands of pelicans fly over your head as you stand on the artwork; fall brings crystalized bugs stuck in the lakebed; and winter is silent as six-foot-tall mountains of foam roll, flop, and dance over the landscape.

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Both Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty highlight the power of our climate and its effects on a landscape. By experiencing these works we are able to witness nature at its most extreme. We like to remind visitors to these sites to always be prepared. Check the weather; bring lots of water, food, proper clothing and footwear. We also ask that you “leave no trace” when visiting by carrying out anything you bring and leave the natural environment exactly how you found it. Visit our website for more details. 

An important aspect of programming for Land art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is creating teacher resources and providing professional development for K-12 educators across the state. We know that when we work with teachers to develop classroom content that connects Core Standards with artworks our impact grows exponentially and our resources serve even more students across the state.

An educator professional development workshop model we have been testing recently brings teachers and their families together for a Land art workshop. Teachers and their families start in the morning together learning about Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty and creating art in response. Then the teachers and families split into breakout sessions. The teachers explore how to incorporate Land art and STEAM curricula into their classroom, while the families do a number of hands-on experiential workshops to learn and experience concepts connected to these important works.

Here are some examples of lesson plans presented at educator professional developments on Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty written by my colleague, Laura Decker. These lesson plans highlight arts integration of some of the content mentioned above –nature, climate-change, and site.  

Earthworks Ecosystems Lesson Plan

Tunnel Vision Diorama Lesson Plan

Last week is our final Land art post folks! We will end by talking a bit about artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, and highlight the challenges and successes of getting students out to visit these sites in person!

-ABR

Friday 10.14.16

Experiencing the Landscape in Landscape Art

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

How do both Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels help you experience the landscape around it?
Why do you think the artists picked these sites for their artwork?

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Land art is often site-specific. Robert Smithson used basalt rocks from Rozel Point in Great Salt Lake to create his spiral, while Nancy Holt placed human-made concrete tubes on the desert floor that line up with the sunrise and sunset of summer and winter solstice. Both artworks tell ever-changing stories about the landscapes they exist in.

What strikes me about the desolate places of the American West is its sublime vastness. Without human elements, the vistas are so large that it is hard to comprehend how close or far away landforms are. The scale of the desert shifts, salt mounds look like mountains, the sky never ends.

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Think about Sun Tunnels as a camera lens.
How does it focus the foreground, middleground, and background?

The circular tubes limit your view and draw attention to details in the landscape. Sun Tunnels not only allows you to look closely at the land, but also tracks time of day as the light changes and dances in and out of the concrete tubes.

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Notice the water levels in these two photographs.
What is different about them?

These photos were taken two-weeks apart in March of 2013.
What do you think is contributing to the difference in water levels?

Spiral Jetty frames our view and understanding of Great Salt Lake. We are able to use the artwork to see how the lake is affected by climate, weather, and season. (I will talk about this in more detail in next week’s post.)

Spiral Jetty
and Sun Tunnels frame and focus the landscape and bring big spaces to a human scale. At the UMFA we hope to frame and focus these sites for multi-generation and family learners through our educational programs.

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One of our most popular programs is the Spiral Jetty Backpack. This backpack can be checked out a week at a time to take out to Spiral Jetty and explore the art and science of the site. The backpack has participants consider the artwork through multiple lenses focusing on maps, drawing, materials, shape, science, and nature through hands-on activities and experiments. The backpack also includes looking prompts, discussion topics, and questions for families of all ages to talk about the artwork together. Backpack participants receive a take-home packet with the backpack including worksheets and activities that they can keep. After the adventure, the backpack is returned to the UMFA. This program was developed by my colleague, Virginia Catherall, and is so popular that it has a continuous waiting list of families wanting to participate!

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Please download a featured activity from the Spiral Jetty backpack about maps. If you would like more information about UMFA’s backpack program or to see the entirety of its curricula, please leave a comment below.

Soon we will begin developing the Sun Tunnels backpack. As a preview of that curricula and next week’s topic on educator programming, please download “Framing the Landscape.”

Download Lesson Plans:
- Spiral Jetty Map Activity by Virginia Catherall
- Framing the Landscape by Virginia Catherall

-ABR

Tuesday 10.11.16

Goals of Community Meet-ups

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

As promised, this week we will post three examples of some of the activities we use to guide visitors through experiencing Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels at UMFA Community Meet-ups. These workshops, focusing on sketching and writing, are guided tours of the sites and begin with a discussion of the artwork and surrounding landscape followed by a demonstration of the project. Participants then are able to go off on their own to do the lesson and engage with the work of art.

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Remember, as discussed in the last post, the goals of our community meet-ups are to provide access to these artworks; promote engagement and education to all ages and backgrounds; deliver experiential and exploratory experiences; and most importantly to have fun exploring Land art in Utah! Sketching and writing are just two of many workshop models we do on-site, but work with many ages from young to the young at heart! These three activities focus on Spiral Jetty, but the concepts can be directly applied to any artwork, landscape, environment, or even the classroom! Do you have other ideas or extensions on how to use these projects? Please share in the comments section below!

Spiral Jetty

Download Lesson Plans:
Blind Contouring: Sketching Spiral Jetty
by Amy Noorlander and Laura Decker
Exploring Color: Documenting Color through Place
by Amy Noorlander and Laura Decker
Stream-of-Consciousness: Writing Spiral Jetty by Iris Moulton

Stay tuned for more! The next post will focus on experiencing Land art through family and multi-generational learning!

-ABR

Friday 10. 7.16

Exploring Land Art

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

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Imagine standing in these landscapes. What smells would be in the air? What noises would float around you? How would the air feel on your cheek?

As you look at both Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson, 1970) and Sun Tunnels (Nancy Holt 1973-1976) what is the same and what is different about these works of art? How would you interact with them if you were at these sites?

As discussed in the previous post, Land art explores the landscape in a variety of ways and can be made on or into the land. Did you know that you are supposed to walk-on and interact with Land art?

Spiral Jetty is built out of basalt rocks gathered from its site, Rozel Point, in the north arm of Great Salt Lake. The 15-foot-wide jetty spirals 1500 feet into the lakebed. Sun Tunnels consists of four large concrete cylinders arranged in an X pattern on Utah’s west desert floor that aligns with the sunrise and sunset during the summer and winter solstices. Each of the cylinders is pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations: Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn.

People travel from around the world to experience Utah’s Land art. Once in Utah, the journey consists of long highways, twisting dirt roads, industrial spaces, historical sites, and the vast unknown. Both sites are hours away from Salt Lake City and the journey is crucial to experiencing them. It’s not just about clambering on top of Spiral Jetty, or peaking through Sun Tunnels. The real magic of experiencing this art form begins when you step into your car to embark on an adventure into the wilds of the West.

Each year the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) host Community Meet-ups at both Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels with the goals to provide access to these artworks; promote engagement and education to all ages and backgrounds; deliver experiential and exploratory experiences; and most importantly to have fun exploring Land art in Utah!

On April 30, 2016 we launched our first meet-up at Sun Tunnels. Although it was a stormy day, over 75 people had fun in the rain experiencing this amazing place through discussions, art-making, and performances.

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Last weekend on October 1 2016, the UMFA hosted over 250 people at Spiral Jetty. This is the third annual community meet-up at this site and the day included short lectures about the art and science of the site, art-making workshops (spirographs and salt-water landscape painting), writing and sketching tours of the landscape, science stations (exploring salt, minerals, and microbes of the lake), and musical performances.

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Over the past three years that we have been planning community meet-ups at these sites, we have seen the interest and attendance of Utah’s community continue to grow. There is nothing more thrilling to a museum educator like myself than to see people having conversations, making art, going on an adventure, and creating memories around such amazing works of art! Check back later this week when I will post some of the activities we developed for UMFA’s community meet-ups. Until then, happy adventuring!

-ABR

Saturday 10. 1.16

Land art, Landscape, and the Environment

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

What do you think of when you hear the words: Land art, Landscape, and the Environment?
How many different “scapes” can you think of?
Imagine being in your favorite landscape right now. What do you see, feel, smell, and hear?

Utah is filled with incredible landscapes. From the red rocks of Southern Utah, the forests of the Wasatch Mountains, the wetlands and salty shores of Great Salt Lake, and our five national parks, Utah has some of the most amazing environments you will ever see! Living in Utah means that you have a strong connection to the land. Whether celebrating its beauty, exploring the outdoors, fighting for preservation of natural spaces, or recognizing the many natural resources that flow in and out of state, Utah highlights the complex relationship with the land around us. Utah is also home to some of the most iconic and important works of Land art in the world.

What is Land art?
Land art began in the late 1960s with a group of artists who were interested in exploring natural spaces and finding new ways of making art. Could the landscape be a giant canvas to draw and create on? Could you incorporate natural materials like dirt, rocks, and plants as materials for creating works of art? Could you bring human-made materials into the environment? These kinds of questions quickly grew into a process-based approach to art making in which the artist would travel into the environment to either collect objects or perform site-specific interventions. Land artists were attracted to the vast spaces and emptiness of the American West that were far away from the urban centers of the art world. In Utah, we are fortunate to have two important works of Land art in our own backyard, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) and Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1973–76).

Smithson%20Robert%20Spiral%20JettySpiral Jetty

Nancy%20Holt%2c%20Sunlight%20in%20Sun%20TunnelsSun Tunnels

In January 2012, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts was announced as one of two local organizations selected to collaborate with Dia Art Foundation in the ongoing stewardship of these art-works. An important part of this stewardship is to provide access and educational opportunities to Land art in Utah. Throughout the month of October, I will highlight some of UMFA’s programs, philosophies, and approaches for connecting Land art, landscape and the environment to people of all ages, as well as provide tips and curricula on how you can incorporate STEAM-based, interdisciplinary education in K-16 classrooms and beyond!

-ABR