The Lightning Field

 ‘Location, location, location.’ Chosen by the artist Walter De Maria, the high New Mexico desert provides the highest incidence of lightning events in the US. His seminal installation, ‘The Lightning Field’ is not easy to find- ‘you can’t get there from here-’ or anywhere. Four hours from Albuquerque in our rental car brought us to an empty office in Quemado where we met the conservator of the work- Robert Fosdick. An authentic cowboy and former Rodeo Champion we affectionately dubbed him, ‘Cowboy Bob’. Cowboy Bob then drove us another hour in a mud-caked SUV down dirt roads flooded with recent storm water at a rate of speed usually reserved for Amusement Park rides.

Visitors must stay overnight. Dinner- Enchiladas prepared by Cowboy Bob’s daughters- are in the fridge. The cabin is an original homestead dwelling that has been ‘remodeled’ for 21stcentury visitors. Well, maybe 20th century visitors- no Internet, no Wii, no TV. You get the picture.


But in this remote setting all there is to do is experience the artwork. And what an experience it is! Nothing can prepare an urban dweller such as myself for the vast expanse of the New Mexico plains. Trying to comprehend the vast, open space was truly an exciting endeavor.

The work consists of 400 stainless steel poles arranged in a grid measuring 1 mile x 1 meter. Each pole is 20’ tall, embedded in cement and sharpened to a point. Although we did experience lighting in all directions, it needs to be less than 200’ up to strike the poles. Watching the light change and viewing the contrast between the highly finished stainless and the grubby, saturated landscape was amazing enough.

We rose before sunrise the next day and walked the perimeter at Dawn. Cattle and Coyotes provided the soundtrack while a brief Rainbow graced us with its presence. We left the way we had come- Cowboy Bob’s daughter learned to drive from Dad- but a bit more fulfilled.

September 11, 2011