Fleeing the confines of studios, galleries, and museums, the
of the 1960s and ’70s turned the earth’s surface into their canvas. Suddenly, art could be dirt, stone, sand, and sky. It could vanish in the wind or permanently alter a landscape. It didn’t need to be bought or sold.
(Using the organic world as an artistic medium was nothing out of the ordinary to many non-Western cultures, of course—think of the geoglyphs in the Nazca desert, or “Nazca Lines,” in Peru—but within the context of Western art, it was groundbreaking.)
While the definition of Western art expanded in this era, the image of the artist narrowed. The Land Artist was seen as a rugged cowboy, colonizing the American West with bulldozers, guns, and cranes. The Land Artist was also quintessentially male. Yet, in practice, this was far from the case. Dozens of female creatives pioneered this movement alongside their male counterparts.
And financial support came from women, too. Earthworks were often expensive to make, and required patronage—which many Land Artists found in gallerist Virginia Dwan. Dwan funded ’s Spiral Jetty
(1970), ’s Lightning Field
(1977), and Charles Ross’s Star Axis
(1971–76), but she underwrote few projects by women. “Virginia Dwan was the head of a very exclusive boys’ club,” explained
the feminist artist
. “Few women were allowed to enter.”
Recent scholarship, as well as pivotal exhibitions at New York’s SculptureCenter and Brooklyn Museum, have helped to correct this bias, highlighting the women artists who were instrumental in the development of this art form. What follows is a rundown of 10 female Land Artists you should know—though there were many more.