The very first works of art were made by shaping the earth into symbolic forms such as Stonehenge, the carved and painted caves of Lascaux, and massive mounds of dirt found in ancient indigenous people of the Americas.
Throughout time and culture, human beings have turned to the earth in order to learn engineering techniques, rudimentary ways to express themselves, or dedicate themselves to religious ritual. Despite our fixation on new technologies, the human desire to revere nature has not abated. Over fears of using up our most precious and beautiful natural resources, ecological awareness has surged.
In our modern era, many artists have turned to the power and purity of using nature as an enduring idea. By looking to the sublimity of ancient earthworks, contemporary artists have been inspired to capture new ideas for artmaking.
Rationale for Teaching
The earth as an enduring idea for teaching and learning allows multiple disciplines to engage in study by examining the earthworks of the past and contemporary artists. Mounds and Henges have been built by people of the past throughout the world as an intrinsic part of religion, sacred space, power, celestial orientation, and burial. There is evidence of engineering and mathematical ingenuity, in both ancient and modern earthworks. Studying ancient earthworks invites the learner into history, social studies, geography, art, and math. In contemporary earthworks created as public sculpture, the learner is confronted with additional disciplines of economics, the study of light, psychology, feminism, and nature. Related approaches to these monumental works allows the learner to glimpse the ways in which form and symbolic meaning is specific to given societies.
- Using the earth for spiritual expression
- Recycling and ecological concerns
- Materialism and consumerism as post-industrial concerns
- In what ways do ancient and contemporary artists use the earth and earthworks as a means for spiritual expression?
- How can recycling programs and public programs abate ecological concerns for using natural resources?
- What kinds of impacts might our need for material things have on the earth, our economy, and society? How can we break free of our need for things?