The Lightning Field by sculptor Walter De Maria is one of the late-20th century’s most intriguing and important works of Land Art.
Located in the remote High Desert of New Mexico at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level, the poles which are two inches in diameter and around 20 feet high, are spaced 220 feet apart and have solid pointed tips that define a horizontal plane.
A sculpture to be walked in as well as viewed, The Lightning Field is intended to be experienced over an extended period of time. A full experience of The Lightning Field does not depend upon the occurrence of lightning, and visitors are encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the field, especially during sunset and sunrise.
So reads the project’s website.
The Lightning Field was commissioned in 1977 by the Dia Art Foundation, who maintain the site. Dia also maintain two other of De Maria’s projects, both located in New York City: The Broken Kilometer, 1979, and The New York Earth Room, 1977.
Hard to get to, difficult to find; the exact location of the site is a well kept secret, but rest assured, it is in the middle of nowhere, and you are required to sign a waiver before visiting.
Storms and lightning strikes have scarred and charred the earth around the base of the pole, and when lightning does strike a pole it chars the pole as well, which then needs to be replaced to maintain the pristine visual of the field.
So despite being called the “Lightning Field”, lightning strikes are actually destructive to the work.
Standing in the center of the field and looking out to the distant mesas has been described by some, as a mind-altering experience. It is definitely an otherworldly one. Each pole has been meticulously planted so that the tips create a perfect horizontal plane within the desolate landscape. At sunrise and sunset brilliant golden light reflects from the poles for one magical moment.
The Dia maintains a cabin adjacent to the Lightning Field which provides shelter and simple meals during your visit. Bring protective clothing, and boots or rugged shoes. No electronic devices are allowed, but you are provided with a short-wave radio to contact the Dia Office for emergencies.
No more than six visitors per night can be accommodated, and camping is not permitted, so make reservations early. Reservations are accepted beginning March 1st for visits from May 1st until October 31. Day visits and visitors without reservations are not accommodated.
For more on The Lightning Field and how to get there, please visit the site linked below.
All images Stock Files