The Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty


The Spiral Jetty was created by earth sculptor, Robert Smithson in the year 1970 in Great Salt Late, Utah located in a very isolated area where visitors must go through a rough road, 16 miles on unpaved roads.  It is a monumental earthwork created using black basalt rocks which is a common gray to black volcanic rock, and also used earth from the site. Smithson created a coil that is 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide and stretches out into the clear red water in a counter-clockwise motion. About 6,600 tons of material was used in the creation of the Spiral Jetty. At the time, Smithson believed that the Great Salt Lake was receding but the opposite occurred when within 2 years after the completion of the Spiral Jetty it was underwater. During its time under water “the salt crystals had grown on the rugged rocks which gave it a cotton ball effect” said writer Carol Van Wagoner during his visit in 1993.

The decision of where to place the Spiral Jetty was between Utah and Bolivia because of their red saline lakes. Bolivia’s bodies of water were too distant however and decided on Utah’s Great Lake because it had a primitive feel. “I like landscapes that suggest prehistory. As an artist it is interesting to take on the persona of a geological agent and actually become part of that process rather than overcome it” said Smithson. The Spiral Jetty has managed to have a mystic sensation whether it is underwater or exposed.






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