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Landscape Art - Land art visible from Google Earth

Updated on June 16, 2011
Nazca Dog
Nazca Dog
Cerne Giant - Dorset c1500
Cerne Giant - Dorset c1500

Land Art through time

Over the millennia humans have been producing some marvellous land art. Strange marks in the landscape that leave us with both clues and mysteries as to the way they thought, worshipped and celebrated. Since the 1960’s there has been a gradual development in landscape art and treating it as a serious art form. Modern people leaving their images in the sands for future generations to ponder over.

The Nazca carvings in Peru have perplexed scientists for decades; these massive creatures, insects and animals are thought to relate to the cosmos and were first started around 400AD. More recently, during the sixteenth century, the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset and the Long man in East Sussex appeared in Britain.

The sixties land art movement utilised natural materials, wood, earth and stones to reject what was seen as an over commercialisation of art and return to a more natural aesthetic. The artists produced works that blend and complimented their environment, sometimes confronting it, at others explaining it but always seeking to be a part of the surroundings.

I was curious to see how many of these creations it was possible to find using Google Earth to explore the land and try to locate these sculptures from the air. Many pieces were small, temporary structures, while the locations where others are located have not been photographed to sufficiently high definition to successfully show them. Here however are some pieces from across the last fifty years that can be found on Google Earth (Click on the "Title" for the link to the site).

Spiral Jetty - 1970
Spiral Jetty - 1970

"CLICK" title for Google image

Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA

Spiral Jetty – Robert Smithson - 1970

The Spiral Jetty is made from local black basalt rocks and earth; it is 1,500’ long and 15’ wide and stretches out into the Great Salt Lake. The black of the rocks, contrasts with the red of the water giving it a distinctly robust feel.

Bunjil Geoglymph
Bunjil Geoglymph

You Yangs, Victoria, Australia

Bunjil Geoglyph – Andrew Roberts - 2006

Roberts created the Bunjil in response to local legend about the mythical creature as told by the Wautharong Aboriginies. This formed a part of his “rhythms of life” series as was a made from 1500 tons of local stone and has a wingspan of over 100 metres. 

Inside the Roden crater
Inside the Roden crater

Roden Volcano Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona

Naked Eye Observatory - James Turrell – 1979

The extinct Roden Volcano takes on the massive sculptural perspectives of the ancient creators. The volcano was bought by Turrell in the seventies and has become a project on a large scale. It involves harnessing and capturing natural light within rooms, chambers and corridors inside his volcano.

Angel of the North - 1994
Angel of the North - 1994

Gateshead, England

Angel of the North - Anthony Gormley - 1994

Although Gormley’s great guardian of the north is not technically a land sculpture I couldn’t help including its Google image. You can just make out the shape of its top but if you notice the cast shadow it is so obvious what you are looking at. The steel structure stands 70’ tall and has a 90’ wingspan and has a fell of old Celtic wicker man statues. 

City - 1972
City - 1972

Garden Valley, Nevada, USA

City – Michael Heizer – 1972 - present

Never an artist shy of scale, City represents probably the largest single piece of artwork in the modern world. The site is approximately 1.25 miles long and a quarter of a mile wide. Made mostly from moulded earth, it features a series of complexes and geometric forms. Looking very much like minimalist ancient monuments and industrial developments, Heizer claims they also pay homage to ceremonial squares and playing courts.   

Spire - 2008
Spire - 2008

The Presidio, San Francisco, USA

Spire – Andy Goldsworthy – 2008

Towering over The Presidio, Goldsworthy’s Spire project has a cathedral feel to its presence. The 100’ needle is the tallest land sculpture in North America and made from Cyprus trunks.

If you look at the Google map of the area, the shot was interestingly taken as the structure was being built and the piles of logs can be clearly seen on the ground, while views on the rotateable Google Earth show the finished piece.

Broken Circle 1971-72
Broken Circle 1971-72
Spiral Hill - 1971
Spiral Hill - 1971

Quarry, Emmen, Netherlands

Broken Circle 1971-72 & Spiral Hill 1971- Robert Smithson

During the 1970’s the disused sand quarry outside Emmen became the site for two of Smithson’s great land art pieces.

The Broken Circle is 140’ diameter and made from white and yellow sand stretching out into the lake, with a 15' wide channel cut back into the land. At its centre is a large glacial boulder that it was originally intended to have removed but later decided to include as part of the sculpture.

Above the Broken Circle is sited Spiral Hill, which is 75' diameter at the base and resembles an ancient tumulus burial mound and gives the best view of the circle below. Originally made from black earth with white chalk inset to emphasise the spiral, it was later grass over to better protect the structure from the elements.

Buffalo Rock State Park, Illinois, USA

Effigy Tumuli – Michael Heizer 1983 – 85

Heizer’s Effigy Tumuli is his only figurative pieces and takes on the traditional techniques of the Native American mound builders. His style and design thought is also echoed in his larger City sculpture in Nevada. The Water Boatman is 685’ long and there is also a frog, snake, turtle and catfish incorporated into the landscape of this old disused silica mine.

Lelystad Observatory - 1977
Lelystad Observatory - 1977

Lelystad, Netherlands

Observatory – Robert Morris – 1977

The Observatory built in the Dutch landscape near Lelystad, is a modern Stonehenge aligned in such a way as so to be best appreciated during the solstices and equinoxes. The piece is 300’ diameter and made from a combination of wood, earth and metal. This observatory as his second, the first close to the sea did not have any funding for its upkeep and quickly disintegrated. 

Full Moon Circle - 2004
Full Moon Circle - 2004

Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England

Full Moon Circle – Richard Long – 2004

Continues Long’s erstwhile affection with land art that goes all the way back to 1971 and Uig on the Isle of Skye.

The Full Moon at Houghton Hall is 70’ diameter and made from broken pieces of Cornish slate.

south Cove - 1988
south Cove - 1988

Battery Park, New York City, USA

South Cove – Mary Miss - 1988

There is a tranquil haven that has been created alongside the Hudson river and away from the New York hustle and bustle. Comprising smooth natural shapes, carvers and arches that blend in with plants, rocks, lapping water and atmospheric blue lights.


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