Minnesota-based graphic designer Paul Johnson has long been fascinated with creating art in the dirt, so to speak, every since drawing in sand with a stick at the beach for hours on end as a child. In college he soon learned of several modern artists working at the intersection of land science and art such as Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy and Jim Denevan. In his Earthworks in Motion series Johnson utilizes some of the same patterns and general ideas from these artists but sets them in motion using meticulous stop motion animation techniques.
Filmed in various nature preserves, parks, and wildlife refuges around the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, each animation involves the careful placement of sticks, snow, ice, light, and rocks to create moving geometric formations. We’ve seen a number of animated land art pieces here on Colossal, but Johnson’s precision and ingenuity really set these apart. Watch the video above or see new clips as he creates them on Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
We just featured new snow drawings by artist Simon Beckearlier this month, but this new short film by Great Big Story takes us behind the scenes as he tramples a number of new pieces at Powder Mountain Resort in Utah. Beck mentions that he often walks an estimated 5,000 steps an hour for up to 10 hours at a time to complete an average piece, but some works can span several days of labor. See photos of his latest pieces here. (via Colossal Submissions)
Driven by super-human forces and undaunted by the powers of nature, artist Simon Beck (previously) trudges across sand or through knee-high snow to create massive geometric drawings left behind in his footprints. From sandy expanses on the shore of New Zealand to frigid outlooks in the Swiss Alps, any pristine surface that stretches for hundreds of meters can work as a suitable canvas for Beck’s designs.
Each site-specific piece is planned well in advance on a computer and carefully mapped out on-site before the artist begins his grueling expedition. After walking for entire days, the painstaking details of enormous fractals, snowflakes, dragons, and undulating geometric forms are left in his wake—often with barely enough sunlight to snap a few quick photos.
Seen here are a number of pieces by Beck from the last year or so. You can learn about the fine details of his process in this FAQ and see additional photos over on Facebook. He also published a book of his work titled Simon Beck: Snow Art.
We’ve seen a number of interesting projects lately that attempt to bring art from inside museums into the outdoors. Artist Stan Herd has been doing just that for years by using fields as his canvas for both original compositions and interpretations of historical art. His latest work is a monumental 1.2-acre interpretation of Van Gogh’s 1889 Painting “Olive Trees” planted in Minneapolis. The piece was commissioned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and involved weeks of mowing, digging, planting, and earthscaping to create the piece viewable from the air near the Minneapolis airport. If you happen to see the piece when flying into the city, you can head to the museum to see the real thing.
Herd’s first outdoor land art piece (he refers to them as “earthworks”) was an ambitions 160-acre portrait of Kiowa Indian chief Satanta, that he physically carved into a Kansas prairie in 1981. He’s since created dozens of works around the world, and notably inspired Japanese artists in Inakadate province north of Tokyo to plant a series of incredible rice paddy artworks.
The Van Gogh field will be on view through the fall in Minneapolis, after which Herd plans to mow it down in concentric circles similar to the Dutch artists’s iconic painting style. You can read more about the piece in the StarTribune. (thnx, Randy!)
Working along a single stretch of coastline in Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve, artist Alejandro Duran collects countless bits of trash that washes up from locations around the world. So far he’s discovered plastic debris from dozens of countries on this shore of the Caribbean coast which he utilizes for site site-specific installations for an ongoing project titled Washed Up. By creating aesthetically pleasing landscapes from a disheartening medium, it’s Duran’s hope to create a harsh juxtaposition that draws attention to the global catastrophe of ocean pollution. He shares in a statement about Washed Up:
Over the course of this project, I have identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an. I have used this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.
More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture.
Working only with rocks, gravity, and patience, artist Michael Grab (previously) builds precarious towers and bridges that seem to defy gravity. Grab first tried stone balancing during the summer of 2008 while exploring Boulder Creek in Boulder, Colorado, and quickly discovered an innate ability to build increasingly complicated, free standing stacks of rocks. While his stone sculptures rely heavily on intuition and experience, there’s actually a method he uses in most of his work involving hidden “tripods” found on the surface of any rock. He shares in detail:
Balance requires a minimum of three contact points. Luckily, every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a natural tripo for the rock to stand upright, or in most orientations you can think of with other rocks. By paying close attention to the vibrations of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest “clicks” as the notches of the rocks are moving over one another. In the finest “point-balances,” these clicks can be felt on a scale smaller than millimeters, and in rare cases can even go undetected, in which case intuition and experience become quite useful.
You can watch the video above to see Grab at work over the last year, and also see more photography of his stone balancing in his online portfolio or on Facebook. Grab survives mostly off print sales, so if you’re in need of a fancy new calendar for 2015, he’s got you covered.