De Maria combined both practices of land art and minimalism in his quest for the ideal backdrop to position his heavy metal masterwork known as The Lighting Field. An isolated outpost in New Mexico won out for its flatness and high potential for lightning strikes.
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Unlike most land art installations viewed via guided tour or limited to a pit stop snapshot, The Lightning Field requires an overnight stay booked through the Dia Foundation which maintains the installation and on-site lodging available from May through October.
The season is already fully booked with a waitlist for a slot in the six-person cabin, equipped with a kitchen stocked with a vegetarian casserole and breakfast fixings, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Your stay includes transportation to The Lightning Field with a strict 2 pm departure time from Quemado and a return to your vehicle around noon the following day.
Nevertheless, a visit to The Lightning Field comes with a liability waiver upon arrival at the Dia Foundation office in Quemado. From here, you and your cabinmates will be chauffeured in a rugged SUV to The Lightning Field on a route free of any notable landmarks. Instead, The Lightning Field is an experience. Put on a pair of sturdy footwear for a free-range trek on terrain marked by impressive anthills, a variety of animal droppings, and brushy blonde grasslands. Savor the undisturbed intimacy with the artwork juxtaposed against the natural beauty of the great outdoors as sunset and sunrise transform The Lightning Field into a field of light.
There is an emergency line available.
The worn wooden chairs on the back porch provide the perfect vantage point for taking in The Lightning Field , as well as sightings of the cottontail rabbits who reside under the cabin. Resist the urge to accompany the artwork with a playlist and let the sounds of coyote yelps and the occasional hum of a plane overhead be the music to your ears. Around 11 am the next day, your chauffeured ride will arrive to take you back to town. The average afternoon temperature hovers around 80 degrees but the mornings and evenings can be chilly.
Completed in , the work is made up of polished stainless steel poles designed to attract lightning. The piece is maintained by the New York-based Dia Art Foundation, and the only way to see it is to spend the night in the rustic cabin on the property.
De Maria intended for the piece to be experienced over a twenty-four hour period with no more than six people on the property at a time. We drove for hours through the vast expanse of empty desert to the Dia office in Quemado, a town with no street names or addresses.
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We found it without incident. We loaded into the Dia shuttle. Robert tuned the radio to outlaw country and drove us another forty-five minutes on winding dirt roads until we reached the site.
He showed us around the cabin, told us someone would be back the next morning to pick us up, then left. Want more awesome stories like this? Subscribe to our newsletter.
We find ourselves alone in the middle of nowhere. The cabin is modest and efficient: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining table for six. Which explains why we have no neighbors, cell service, or WiFi. Photographs are prohibited, Instagram is impossible. We are forced to be present in the now, to connect with our surroundings.
It is late afternoon when we walk out into the field. A row of purple mountains rises up far in the distance.
The sky is clear and blue, the possibility of lightning nonexistent. I go off on my own, slowly, watching the poles disappear and reappear as my perspective changes.
The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria Is Half Art Installation, Half Adventure Travel
They remind me of the alchemical fifth element of aether, something otherworldly yet connected to earth, air, fire, and water. I am somewhere near the middle when the sun begins to drop. As the light changes, the poles themselves transform from silver to gold to white, then the blackness creeps up until only the tips shine bright like circular bulbs. And then they are gone. After dark, we eat the meal that had been left for us — green chile enchiladas and beans, with flan for dessert.