UWF professor shares sabbatical journey, explores major works of Land Art

By Elizabeth Gray
Staff Writer

The desert can be an inspiring place. At least that is how Valerie George, contemporary artist and UWF associate professor of art, said she felt when she made a journey to the Great Basin Desert in Utah last year.

Entropic Force: Land Art & The Mortal Frame- Self Portrait with “Double Negative” George projected images of her legs onto the wall of the Double Negative. As a sculptor, she was excited to see her work in a fresco style painting on the walls of the Double Negative. Photo courtesy Valerie George.

On Thursday night at the Pensacola Museum of Art, George gave a lecture about her 2016 sabbatical research and her work, “Entropic Force: Land Art & The Mortal Frame,” preceding a film screening of Nancy Holt’s “Sun Tunnels.”

George was introduced by a member of the museum curator staff, who also gave the audience some background about the film and some history about land art.

Entropic Force: Land Art & The Mortal Frame- Self Portrait with “Amarillo Ramp” George did not get to spend as much time here as her other stops but was able to relax on the deteriorating Amarillo Ramp. The ramp, when first built, was much larger and stable. At the ramp, George projected her body as she was resting in the sun. Photo courtesy Valerie George.

Sun Tunnels are a piece of land art created by Holt in Lucin, Utah, in 1978. Land art is the idea of bringing a landscape and a work of art together so the two are inextricably linked.

George visited the Sun Tunnels, as well as a few other land art sites during her sabbatical, and in return she created these site-specific works. She engaged with the pieces of land art through a series of projections. She projected the human figure, her own to be exact, and the landscape around her onto the tunnels.

With these projections, George connects and merges the physical body, and the topographic and celestial bodies that Holt’s work intertwines.

Being a two-time survivor of breast cancer, George said the meaning behind the word “entropy” really stuck with her throughout her journey. The works of art that she visited have been deteriorating for years, and George was questioning her own mortality.

Valerie George with her print of Entropic Force: Land Art & The Mortal Frame- Self Portrait with “Sun Tunnels” in the gallery at the Pensacola Museum of Art. Photo by Elizabeth Gray.

George spent a couple of days in the desert with the tunnels, almost completely isolated. Not only did she take in the tunnels; she became part of the landscape around her. “I started see human form in the landscape around me, as I started to take it all in. Not just the Sun Tunnels but where they were located … I started to see bodies lying on their sides and on their backs. I saw the Sun Tunnels themselves as being these bodies lying on their backs looking at the sky.”

Then George stripped down and became one with nature.

“I put myself out there, and I literally laid on my back in the desert and photographed myself and took a series of self-portraits,” said George. And as the sun went down she set up her projectors to place those images onto the tunnels.

Entropic Force: Land Art & The Mortal Frame- Self Portrait with “Sun Tunnels” If you look closely you can see George lying in the desert at the location of the Sun Tunnels. The mountain in the background inspired her to take this self-portrait. Photo courtesy Valerie George.

The other locations George visited followed the same routine. She spent days semi-isolated with the Double Negative in Nevada; the Spiral Jetty, the famous earthwork sculpture in Utah by American sculptor Robert Smithson; and the Amarillo Ramp in Texas.

All of them put her in touch with her intuitive impulses.

Following those impulses is something that she passes on to her students. “Trust your intuitive impulses and your intuitive daydreams … be strange and weird. As artists, we sort of have to indulge these fantastic feelings, responses and emotions.”

As for her next endeavor, George will be spending time in Australia over the summer, but she’s not quite sure where that will lead her artistically.

If you would like to view more of George’s work visit her website here.