Karen Ann Hoffman
Lesson: Shaping Landscape into Land Art
Good art is not random. Good art is intentional.
–Karen Ann Hoffman, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Learning Objective: Students will be able to describe what land art is and will create their own land artwork.
One form of ancient art is the mound—made by people moving dirt or stones from one location to another, creating a giant sculpture on the landscape. Near Baraboo, Wisconsin, there is one such work of land art that resembles a large humanoid figure that has been given the modern name Man Mound. No one knows when he was molded onto the land. Hundreds or thousands of baskets of dirt were intentionally placed to form a figure 214 feet long, 48 feet wide, and about three feet high.
At some point in the late 1800s, a road was cut through Man Mound separating his legs from the rest of his body. His feet were later destroyed due to farming. Over a century later, his missing legs have been painted across Man Mound Road and his feet covered with agricultural plastic; temporary solutions to permanent disfigurement.
With her artwork Man Mound Footstool, Karen Ann Hoffman carefully put him back together, Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork on green velvet on top of a footstool. Karen Ann added strawberries to her design because, after years of neglect, among the first native plants to pop up as the landscape recovered were wild strawberries.
There are still artists turning landscapes into art today, sometimes working in remote places that are hard to get to and other times working closer to people. Land art can also be unexpected – the view from a plane’s window or a heart-shaped leaf lying on the ground. Can you think of any land art examples you have seen or created? If you have ever made a snowman or a sandcastle, or planted seeds in a garden, you have created land art!
Make your small land artwork. Use twigs, rocks, flowers, seeds, or leaves to arrange a design on the ground. What other materials could you use? You can also make your land art in a sandbox or garden, inside a terrarium, or even in the snow.
Words you need to know
A reciprocal connection between two or more things, thoughts, ideas, or people.
Very old, from long in the past.
A hill of dirt or stones, sometimes made by humans.
The natural arrangement of a section of land.
Artwork that is created outdoors using natural materials arranged to form designs, figures, or other forms.
An ape or human.