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Spend the Night in a Massive 'Lightning Field' in the New Mexico Desert

''The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work.”

That statement was written by artist Walter De Maria, and it lives in the cabin notebook at his art installation The Lightning Field. The massive work, set on a plateau in the New Mexico desert, is comprised of 400 stainless steel poles with pointed tips, arranged in a 1-mile-by-1-kilometer grid. The poles measure 2 inches in diameter, and each is set 220 feet apart from the next. The height of each pole varies with the undulating ground—from about 15 feet to nearly 27 feet—so that the tops of all the poles are level.

Since its completion in 1977, The Lightning Field is only ever occupied by six people at a time. Visiting requires making a reservation and spending the night in a small cabin, which costs $150 to $250 per person depending on the time of year. It’s only open from May to October—which is during lightning season.

Even after you’ve made a reservation, the exact location of The Lightning Field is never disclosed. Instead, there’s a pickup point in the town of Quemado, New Mexico where the Dia Art Foundation (the organization that commissioned and maintains the work) has an office. There, a driver picks up the scheduled guests and takes them to the cabin about an hour away. Simple meals are provided, electronics are not allowed, and after the mid-afternoon drop-off, visitors don’t see anyone from the outside world again until 11 a.m. the next morning.

The Lightning Field is meant to be experiential art. Photos aren’t allowed (and some say it’s rather unphotographable, anyway), and while camping isn’t allowed either, De Maria (along with associates Robert Fosdick and Helen Winkler) intended for visitors to spend as much time in the field as possible, particularly during daybreak and at dusk. Contrary to its name, the sculpture isn’t about seeing lightning—in fact, a strike on one of the poles only occurs around 60 times a year, despite being in the high desert, some 7220 above sea level. It's probably for the best, as lightning is actually destructive to the work.

For those who might be alarmed by the idea of such stark isolation, fear not: a short-wave radio will connect guests to the Dia Office if necessary.

Banner image: John Cliett, Dia Art Foundation // Instagram 

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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