I have wanted to visit Walter de Maria’s “Lightning Field” for quite some time, and finally found the time this August. I started by flying to Albuquerque and then drove to Santa Fe to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe was incredible, it was so scenic and beautiful, and gave real insight into the geographic area that inspired and informed her work so greatly. I got to see what O’Keeffe saw in person; driving through the area was like seeing a moving Georgia O’Keeffe painting! The museum was small, but full of O’Keeffe’s work, writing about her legacy, and quotes from the artist. It is a definite must-see for all O’Keeffe lovers!
After the O’Keeffe museum I continued on my way to Walter de Maria’s famous land site, “Lightning Field.” The work is located two hours outside of Albuquerque in Catron County, New Mexico. Visitation must be arranged ahead of time, as the space can only accommodate six guests at any given time. Visitors are met by a tour guide who brings you to the log cabin that you stay in overnight while visiting the site. This guide is a real, old-fashioned cowboy; he actually helped Walter de Maria build the site and has been there since the start! He explained that de Maria intended the location to be part of the work; and I feel that that was definitely true. It was disorienting, traveling to the middle of nowhere, along country road after country road, taking you further and further away from the highway—the infamous Route 66. Once there, you feel a real sense of isolation, it is almost as if you escaped to a new world.
The living space is very comfortable; it’s a super cute cabin that is inviting and clean. The staff leaves little meals for you and the other visitors, and the small group allows for a special bonding experience. Built in 1968, the rods are designed on a grid that visitors walk around. The terrain changes so much as you walk; it goes from being muddy to being full of bugs to being very arid. While there was no lightning during my stay—the literature says that lightning only strikes approximately three days per summer—it was incredible to view the sun interact with the rods. The surrounding area is so open and the sky is full of so many colors, and at night you can see a sky full of stars. I woke up early and watched the sun rise on the field, hitting all 400 lightning rods. It was a truly unforgettable experience—intimate, breathtaking, and magical.