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From the Chairman
Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is undoubtedly the most important and famous Land Art sculpture of our time. Completed in 1970, during historically low water levels, Spiral Jetty has spent more of the past 38 years hidden under water than exposed to human view. But a return to such low water levels over the past decade has brought its black basalt rocks, now nearly completely encrusted in spectacular white salt crystals, back into view without the use of a snorkel.
The ISC celebrated this re-emergence in collaboration with the Salt Lake Art Center in 2004 by bringing together sculpture lovers from around the world to view, discuss, and celebrate Smithson’s masterpiece. Many of the visitors had studied Spiral Jetty since its creation but had not, before this visit, seen or experienced it beyond the pages of an art history book. I can safely say that no one walks away disappointed.
Recently the ISC began planning another visit to Spiral Jetty for this fall. As we were doing so, another group was engaged in its own planning. Sadly, this other planning did not involve art lovers, horticulturalists, or others with an interest in the study or preservation of the lake, the sculpture, or the surrounding environment. Rather, this planning was designed to seek a permit for energy exploration in an area near Spiral Jetty. By the time this letter reaches your hands, the comment period on this application will have passed, so I won’t discuss that process here.
I must admit that I am not a fan of the hypocrisy of those among us who reject energy exploration from the comfort of an SUV—hybrid or otherwise—and the warmth of a gas-heated home. That said, there is a respectful balance to all interests that must be reached, and the current situation involving Spiral Jetty is no exception. If the Great Salt Lake holds the keys to U.S. energy independence, perhaps some level of exploration and exploitation is a necessary evil of our energy dependence. However, even if that were true, Smithson’s work deserves the deference and respect appropriate to a groundbreaking masterpiece.
Leaving aside the necessarily rushed attempt to quash this application for energy exploration in the Great Salt Lake, it has recently been suggested that it is time to recognize Spiral Jetty by granting the sculpture and its surrounding area official status as a National Monument. Throughout our country’s history, such designations have often begun as grassroots efforts by concerned and interested constituencies. As such, let me suggest that you consider the idea and, if you find yourself nodding your head in support, consider contacting the many people and organizations with the interest, and the power, to move such an idea forward. Make contact with the Friends of the Great Salt Lake, the Dia Art Foundation, Utah’s governor and state legislature, your congressmen, senators, and the President—urging them all to protect Spiral Jetty and its surrounding area by designating both together as the next National Monument.
Chairman, ISC Board of Directors
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