Utah 2016. This summer, I worked as a reader for the AP Studio Art portfolios. The scoring currently done in Salt Lake City, Utah… and after 7 days of scoring portfolios, Tim flew out and joined me to take advantage of my surroundings. Basically, we bookended my trip with a trip.
Tim & I had the privilege of visiting this work in person: Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson. Constructed in 1970, it spent most of its first 30 years submerged in the Great Salt Lake. The jetty disappears into the lake if the water level is higher than 4,197 feet. However, In times of drought it’s emerged. Gaining witness to this work was such a gift. The work draws an interesting parallel to the nearby location of The Golden Spike– where the Union Pacific met the Central Pacific Railroad.
The drive to Spiral Jetty was approximately 2 hours from Salt Lake City, with only about an hour on the interstate. The rest is country roads. I spent the majority of the car ride in a panic, worried that the rain would make this a futile endeavor. Stupid rain. The rain was pouring down for most of the drive, but began to clear as we made our final approach. As we made our way past the last bit of “civilization” (I am using that word loosely.) we shifted from pavement to red dirt roads with distances marked by cattle crossings.
Nearly 15 miles of dirt roads would take us to the Jetty (some that my GPS insisted existed that did NOT), with just a few signs to point us in the right direction. We might have seen just two cars returning in the opposite direction. Many of the signs had bullet holes in them. At least, the ones that hadn’t been stolen did. Apparently, people steal the signs pointing to the Jetty as souvenirs? (ugh… don’t get me started on THAT.)
When we finally arrived, I was pleased to see that there were two other cars. As lovely as it would have been to view this remote and isolated artwork without the presence of others, I also appreciated that others had made this pilgrimage.
To view the work in person, I have a deeper appreciation for it. The water is currently so low that it has receded nearly a half mile from the shore. The pink salt water made a beautiful line across the horizon. When it is initially exposed, the black basalt rock is encrusted with a beautiful pink salt. In many ways, I felt guilty for cursing the rain in a state that only receives ~12 inches per year.
To walk this path, to think about how the basalt rock was moved to this place… to consider how it was constructed. I thought a lot about the First Transcontinental Railroad its physical construction through this rough and remote terrain. With stones beneath my feet, it felt like I was walking along wide train tracks, trying to maintain balance with each step. Except this road folded in upon itself. It went everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It got lost in nature and long survived the life of the artist (who passed away in a helicopter crash just 3 years after construction). It’d been submerged and lived only in the photographs taken and the imaginations of artists.
There is no visitors log. There is no museum or gift shop. Some of the signs that direct you towards the Jetty have been stolen by greedy passersby. There is no record of how many people visit this place. And this is why I chose to share this post.