Sometimes, people visiting Lincoln County towns refer to the area as “the middle of nowhere,” but little do they know that there is a “City” in the northern part of the county.
It’s not a city in the true sense, but instead an art installation that has been in the making for over 50 years, and starting this Sept. 2, reservations will be accepted to come and witness this artist’s magnum opus.
Michael Heizer was born in Berkeley, California, in 1944, and began his work with earth-based works of art in the 1960s. This culminated in the purchase of property in Garden Valley in 1972, located two hours north of Hiko. On this spot, Heizer began his most ambitious project yet: City. This installation houses multiple structures and as a whole is considered one of the largest pieces of contemporary art ever conceived. Covering more than a mile and a half in length by a half mile in width, the canvas of land is painted with strokes of dirt, stone and concrete.
“As long as you’re going to make a sculpture,” Heizer says, according to Double Negative, a site dedicated to his works, “why not make one that competes with a 747, or the Empire State Building, or the Golden Gate Bridge?”
Influential in the second half of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, Heizer is known for producing large outdoor earthwork sculptures and for his work with rock, concrete and steel that exists both outside and inside museums and galleries, according to a press release from Triple Aught Foundation, a nonprofit that has established a $30 million endowment for the City.
Heizer started to build the City in the early 1970s in a continuation of the work he had created in the West where he was born, beginning with the negative North and South in the Sierras (1967), and anticipating the epoch-making Double Negative at Mormon Mesa (1969). His earthworks, which live outside in the environment, are known to elicit responses not common to architecturally dependent artworks.
For 50 years, Heizer has added to this art piece. One piece includes Phase One, a series of structures with the most notable addition being Complex Two, reportedly inspired by the mounds of ancient Central and South American tribes, which Hiezer is familiar with due to his father’s extensive anthropological work.
Another installation is 45º, 90º, 180º. This series of triangular-shaped structures produces an optical illusion, alluded to in the installation’s name; as you change your perspective, the structure changes, casting shadow on different angles and providing a more complex shape.
Describing the City, art critic Dave Hickey wrote, “Approaching the cut on foot from the north or south, elements of a cityscape seem to be rising or falling from within the excavation that cuts flat into the rising ridge… As one walks up to an overlook, Heizer’s cultural interventions open out the space. The roads and domes and pits within the excavation are elegantly curbed into long, quiet Sumerian curves. They restore our sense of distance and scale, so the complexity of City reveals itself as a gracious intervention in the desert… composed and complete.”
Hiezer is considered reclusive, but quotes from the artist indicate that he has a deep love for this particular piece of art, saying, “I’m building this work for later. I’m interested in making a work of art that will represent all the civilizations to this point.”Reservations for future visits may be requested by writing to email@example.com. Visitors will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis, and visitations will end for the 2022 season on November 1. The price of a visit is $150/adult, $100/student, and is free (but with reservations still required) for residents of Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine, Nevada, counties.