CULTURE & ARTS
10/28/2014 09:00 am ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

11 Land-Based Artworks That Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Andy Warhol tipped his hat to the wonders of natural design when he quipped, "Land really is the best art." From James Turrell to Christo and Jeanne-Claude to Maya Lin, artists have long incorporated bodies of water and earth into their sculptural imaginings, creating acres-wide installations that honor both aesthetic and the environment.

But unlike a painting or statue or piece of photography, that can be auctioned off into private hands or toured from museum to museum, earthworks are beholden to the land. Weather constantly works against land-based creations, and public art budgets are forced to keep up with not only the effects of time, but the unpredictable elements.

That's where the Cultural Landscape Foundation comes in. The organization's Landslide program, established in 2003, raises awareness for the various site-specific works of art that are in need of support. Choosing from a pool of around 100 submissions, Landslide 2014 specifically honors sites across the United States endangered by development, neglect, vandalism, industrial operations, and natural wear. Of the 100, the initiative is honoring 11 projects by publicizing their histories and informing the public on what it can do to help ensure the future existence of these works.

Behold, 11 land-based artworks that are in danger of going extinct.

  • Harvey Fite's Opus 40 (Saugerties, NY)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> Opus 40 is a massive abstract environmental sculpture nestled in the foothills of the Catskills Escarp
    WHAT: Opus 40 is a massive abstract environmental sculpture nestled in the foothills of the Catskills Escarpment. Created between 1939 and 1976, the 12-acre site is located in a former bluestone quarry equipped with ramps, walkways and stairs that spiral in and out of the natural landscape, scattered with sculptural rubble and the pedestal-esque terraces upon which they sit. Fite was inspired by Mayan sculpture he worked to restore in Copan, Honduras. THREAT: Hurricane Irene (2011) and Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused damage to several portions of the site. In particular, water buildup has caused an older, 14-foot high vertical wall to collapse entirely. Expert stonemasons are consulting on restoration, reportedly set to be completed in 2015. (Image: AP Photo/Jim McKnight)
  • Russell Page's 70th Street Garden (New York, NY)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> Russell Page created a "viewing garden," a partially enclosed outdoor space meant to be looked at thro
    WHAT: Russell Page created a "viewing garden," a partially enclosed outdoor space meant to be looked at through the windows of the museum or from the street, rather than be occupied. Surrounded by three buildings associated with the Frick Museum, it encompasses a rectangular pool of water that acts as an optical illusion, elongating a viewer's sense of space. THREAT: According to TCLF, in June of 2014, the Frick Collection announced plans to demolish the garden to accommodate a six-story, 42,000-square-foot addition designed by Davis Brody Bond Architects and Planners. (Image: Dan Dickinson/Flickr)
  • Simon Rodia's Watts Towers (Los Angeles, CA)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> Watts Towers consists of 17 steel and mosaic cement stucco sculptures built over a period of 34 years,
    WHAT: Watts Towers consists of 17 steel and mosaic cement stucco sculptures built over a period of 34 years, starting in 1921. Of the three main towers, two of them are nearly 100 feet tall. THREAT: "The Watts Towers have not always received proper care and attention over the years given its history of multiple owners and its location in a neglected and overlooked neighborhood of Los Angeles... The Towers are subject to deterioration from a number of environmental factors including thermal effects, vibration, and earthquakes." The Los Angeles County Art Museum is currently reviewing the long term resiliency of the structures. (Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
  • Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum (Joshua Tree, CA)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum spans 10 acres of assemblage art imagined by the late epony
    WHAT: The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum spans 10 acres of assemblage art imagined by the late eponymous California artist. It is, essentially, an arid playground filled with rubble, junk and debris affixed in wild and whimsical arrangements. THREAT: The wind and weather of Joshua Tree continue to degrade many of Purifoy's works. Besides the natural obstacles, the desert has been known to play home to roving drug labs, garbage dumping grounds and illegal graffiti, which threaten the open environment. (Image: amyfry2000/Flickr)
  • Mary Miss' Greenwood Pond: Double Site (Des Moines, IA)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> According to Mary Miss, Greenwood Pond: Double Site is one of only eight of her permanent land works t
    WHAT: According to Mary Miss, Greenwood Pond: Double Site is one of only eight of her permanent land works that remain intact. It was commissioned by the non-profit Des Moines Art Center and was built between 1989 and 1996. The plans to place sculpture inside the grounds of Greenwood Park were initially considered controversial, so Miss collaborated with citizen groups, municipal agencies and scientists in order to create a community-based design. THREAT: Time, weather, floods, and vandalism. The Des Moines Art Center has identified seven renovation priorities, four of which have been addressed. (Image: Picture Des Moines/Flickr)
  • Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project (Detroit, MI)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> In 1986 Detroit native Tyree Guyton transformed portions of the Heidelberg Street Neighborhood into si
    WHAT: In 1986 Detroit native Tyree Guyton transformed portions of the Heidelberg Street Neighborhood into site-specific artworks that incorporated everyday objects, including stuffed animals and vinyl records. As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the Heidelberg Project mission is “to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community.” THREAT: First of all, the city of Detroit has not sanctioned or officially recognized the Heidelberg Project (the city demolished six houses in the '90s). Secondly, the site has experienced a string of arson fires affecting at least six other homes. (Image: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
  • Athena Tacha's Land Art (Various Cities)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> Greek-American artist Athena Tacha is an early environmental artist who has incorporated elements of b
    WHAT: Greek-American artist Athena Tacha is an early environmental artist who has incorporated elements of both art and science into 37 commissioned public works. THREAT: According to TCLK, 30 of her 37 objects are still in existence; however, some site-specific sculptures face possible demolition in the face of budget cuts and changes in land ownership. "Unfortunately Tacha’s work and that of other artists have minimal legal protection. The most significant, the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) provides some protections, but has little control over maintenance and/or demolition." (Image: AP Photo/Mel Evans)
  • Leo Villareal's Bay Lights (San Francisco, CA)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> Leo Villareal affixed 25,000 white L.E.D.s to San Francisco’s Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge, amounting to
    WHAT: Leo Villareal affixed 25,000 white L.E.D.s to San Francisco’s Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge, amounting to the world's largest L.E.D. sculpture. The lights are controlled by a computer program that flickers according to various patterns, all of which, thankfully, can't be seen by drivers. THREAT: The Bay Lights installation was initially contracted for a two-year term ending in March 2015, but could be extended. (Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
  • Robert Morris' Untitled (Johnson Pit No. 30) (Seatac, WA)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> In 1978, the King Country Arts Commission in Seattle, Washington recruited artists in an effort to add
    WHAT: In 1978, the King Country Arts Commission in Seattle, Washington recruited artists in an effort to address the area's "technologically abused land." The county's Department of Public Works chose a gravel pit (listed as number 30) as a demonstration site. Morris' 3.7-acre earthwork was completed there in 1979, consisting of a series of concentric slopes and blackened tree stumps symbolic of a "ghost forest." THREAT: In short, the land faces threats from ongoing development projects and challenging maintenance requirements. (Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation/Molly Landreth)
  • Wells Petroglyph Preserve (Mesa Prieta, NM)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> Wells Petroglyph Preserve includes a collection of between 8,000 and 10,000 images of both humans and
    WHAT: Wells Petroglyph Preserve includes a collection of between 8,000 and 10,000 images of both humans and animals located in northern New Mexico’s 36-square-mile Mesa Prieta. THREAT: Vandalism, mining, and encroaching traffic from county roads and railroads. According to TCLF, the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project struggles to keep up with damage. (Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation/Richard Fenker)
  • Frances Bagley and Tom Orr's White Rock Lake Wildlife Water Theater (Dallas, TX)
    <strong>WHAT:</strong> This Dallas-based artist couple created Water Theater as a shared space for both local wildlife like b
    WHAT: This Dallas-based artist couple created Water Theater as a shared space for both local wildlife like birds, fish and turtles to thrive and visitors to observe. The piece includes 43 round steel poles and 20 polycarbonate solar-powered light poles. THREAT: TCLF writes: "In 2009 the City of Dallas cut out its maintenance funding for public art, a situation made worse because the Percent for Art program was not structured to include a maintenance budget." The site's fate may be decided by an engineer's report set to be completed on February 19, 2015. (Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation/Allison V. Smith)

For more on ways you can get involved with the rehabilitation and upkeep of these projects, visit TCLF here.

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