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Michael Heizer, The Earth Mover

<p>Michael Heizer's "Double Negative" in the Nevada desert</p>

Michael Heizer's "Double Negative" in the Nevada desert

It’s a strange and intriguing art form – a combination of design, architecture, major construction, and tenacity.

It’s called “land art” or “earth art.” And Nevadan Michael Heizer is its foremost practitioner, and has been for decades.

Few know Heizer, though, as he gives very few interviews.

But New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear met the man and wrote a fascinating profile: "The Earth Mover: Michael Heizer's vast desert sculpture nearly killed him. Now it's nearly complete."

However, the word 'nearly' really depends on your point of view. Heizer began the work in the Nevada desert in 1972 - 44 years ago. 

Goodyear spoke with him when he was in New York City.

"I found him to be utterly delightful company," Goodyear told KNPR's State of Nevada, "First of all, he drinks nearly as much espresso as I do. So we were well matched on that front."

Goodyear said the timeline for "City" is an example of how the artist views the world differently. 

"He doesn't think about things that are happening in the moment," she said, "Or you could say he lives very much in the present but with a view toward the deep past and the distant future."

She said "City" is made with materials that really can't be destroyed, because Heizer is looking ahead to future generations discovering his work. 

"It's pretty great to think in those terms when we're all so caught up in maybe the next six months of our lives," she said.

"City" has been viewed by almost no one and Heizer steers clear of the limelight, but Goodyear brushed aside the idea that the artist is a hermit.

"I see why it's tempting to think of him as a hermit, but you could also think of him as someone who has been working on a project that just happens to take maybe ten times as long as most artists longest project," she said, "He doesn't want that work to viewed and judged before it's complete."

Heizer started on the project when he was in his 20s. He is now in his 70s and it is expected to be finished in 2020. 

"I think he will welcome an audience for that art," she said, "It's just not quite time yet."


Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker magazine, Staff writer

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.