URGENT: Help Prevent Oil Drilling Near Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson's monumental earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) is located on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Using black basalt rocks and earth from the site, the artist created a coil 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide that stretches out counterclockwise into the translucent red water. Spiral Jetty was acquired by Dia Art Foundation as a gift from the Estate of the artist in 1999.

The expansive natural setting of the Great Salt Lake and its environs is integral to the  artwork and provides an essential frame for experiencing Smithson's project. Visitors come from around the world to Rozel Point in Box Elder County to see the Spiral Jetty which was conceived in relation to the specific geology and topology of its unique site.

The fragile balance of earth, salt lake, and local flora and fauna, symbolized in the form and structure of the artwork, must be maintained to preserve the experience of the Spiral Jetty in this unique landscape.

How is it threatened?

Spiral Jetty is threatened by a permit application to allow oil drilling nearby in the Great Salt Lake. Drilling activity would disrupt the Jetty's viewshed and the area's silent and isolated character, and would degrade the natural environment of the lake. Moreover, construction and operation will introduce toxins and chemicals to the delicate saline water, potentially deteriorating the sculpture's immediate environment and threatening the physical integrity of Smithson's extraordinary artwork. In addition, drilling activity could lead to increased traffic and heavy transport on the rural road that leads to the Spiral Jetty through Golden Spike National Monument, as well as the potential for noise pollution from drilling and operations.

How can you help?

Write letters to Utah's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office explaining the national and international significance of the Spiral Jetty, and urging them to deny filing #8853, and any future filings that similarly constitute a threat to the artwork and the surrounding environment. Please note, letters must be sent by February 13th and should reference application number # 8853. The Dia Art Foundation has a sample letter that can be viewed here.

Letters can be sent via email to:
Jonathan Jemming
Public Lands Policy Analyst
Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office
Tel: 801.537.9023
Fax: 801.538.9727

Robert Smithson was born in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1938. In 1953, as a high-school student, he won a scholarship to New York's Art Students League, where he studied in the evenings for the next two years, also taking classes at the Brooklyn Museum School in 1956. Smithson's first solo exhibition was in 1959, at the Artist's Gallery, New York. He began to produce what he considered his first mature works of writing and sculpture in 1964. Smithson used black basalt rocks and earth from the site surrounding the Great Salt Lake in Utah, to create the monumental Earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970), a coil 1,500 feet long and fifteen feet wide that stretches out counterclockwise into the translucent red water of the lake. Smithson died in a plane crash in Amarillo, Texas, in 1973, while working on Amarillo Ramp. Major  retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, New York (1980), the Institut Valencià  d'Art Modern, Centre Julio González, Valencia (1993), the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (1999), and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (2004). In 1999, Dia acquired his Spiral Jetty as a gift of his estate, and works are on long-term view at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries.

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