Art or Oil: Drilling Near Utah's Famous "Spiral Jetty" Earthwork


Between oil and everything else, is nothing sacred? Now, Utah's most famous "earthwork" out on the Great Salt Lake may be threatened by a proposal to drill for oil off-shore. Created in 1970 by artist Robert Smithson, the large-scaled sculpture "Spiral Jetty" is a 1,500 feet long, 15 feet wide coil of basalt rock and earth that stretches out counterclockwise out into the red waters of the lake and is one of the more famous examples of the early Land Art movement. Depending on the lake levels, the Spiral Jetty can be visible or submerged and the isolated character of the area lends it a simple but raw beauty.

Though the art piece is in the northern part of the lake and remotely-located from any town or road, the plans to drill for oil five miles out by Canadian company Amoco have sparked protest from across the world, prompting the state to postpone the decision for a permit. The deadline for public comment (see here) is extended until February 13.John Baza, Amoco's director of oil, gas and mining in Utah, says, "The impact will be small. It will be distant, and it will be very transient at this point."

Critics of the proposal are not so convinced. "It's the dimension of projects that are coming forward that collectively will make an impact," says Lynn de Freitas of Friends of the Great Salt Lake. "I believe it's just a matter of time before there's a presence on the lake from this kind of development that could very well impact the experience the jetty offers us today."

See also ::Dia Foundation Press Release, ::Sample Opposition Letter, ::Spiral Jetty on Flickr

Image: Great Salt Lake Rowing

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