Perhaps art and archaeology should work together

Detail of a petroglyph in the White River Narrows in Nevada
Detail of a petroglyph in the White River Narrows in Nevada

Central Nevada’s Garden Valley is home to wildlife, Native American rock shelters, the White River Narrows archaeological sites, and ancient trails used by the Shoshone and Paiute peoples. In September Senator Harry Reid introduced legislation to put over 800,000 acres off-limits to energy exploration and exploitation there. The Bill has been referred to Committeee, and can be tracked here. Though Sen. Reid’s office did not respond to initial press questions about the Bill, setting aside this land must hinge on protecting these natural and archaeological resources. But the area is also home to Michael Heizer’s ongoing City project. It has been described as the largest contemporary work of art. Started in the 1970s, the work is still unfinished, and off-limits to visitors. You can get a sense of its scale though by looking at the google map satellite views of the project.


The Art Newspaper reports on the proposed withdrawal:

Since the site is surrounded by public land, it has been threatened by encroaching development before, most recently by a government plan to build a railroad that would transport nuclear waste across Garden Valley to a repository in Yucca Mountain. Heizer had said that if it went ahead, he would completely destroy City, but President Obama stopped federal funding for the controversial project in 2010.

“Michael Heizer’s City is one of the most significant artworks ever created in the United States,” says Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art who helped the artist secure funding for the project when he was the director of the Dia Foundation for the Arts. Heizer is working on the final engineering and conservation details, Govan tells The Art Newspaper, so that the work can endure for thousands of years. “The mile-and-a-half-long complex will stand as one of the great American monuments of our time, and all time. This historic and cultural resource must be protected for future generations.”

Is it the contemporary art, the environment, or the archaeological sites which prompted Sen. Reid’s proposal? We can’t know for sure, but if constituent groups start to pool resources, these groups might find their interests are reflected in more policy enactments when their interests align.

Garden Valley Withdrawal Act, 2014 S. 2820.

Steve Tetreault & Henry Breanlas Vegas Review-Journal, Sen. Reid quietly moves to block development of 800,000 acres in central Nevada, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Helen Stoilas, Move to protect Heizers City from development, The Art Newspaper (Nov. 3, 2014).

One thought on “Perhaps art and archaeology should work together”

  1. A blurring of the relationship between art and archaeology can be frustrating. Since 1976 I have been trying to persuade various authorities that sometimes what appears to be a work of art is actually information, conveyed in design instead of words and numbers, on a complex relationship between the Sun and the movements of the planet Venus which makes it possible to predict lunar eclipses. I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation with detailed photos of that work of art which can be emailed to anyone that requests it. Comments are welcomed, both positive and negative. Currently I am 89 and looking for an appropriate institution, in the U.S. or elsewhere, would accept the object as a gift.
    Clyde Hostetter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.