F E AT U R E
She also mentioned Robert, the caretaker of the property, who lives somewhere on its periphery and was to be our contact should we need assistance. That night, we lost running water. (This, apparently, doesn’t happen often—a poor mouse, it turned out, had somehow squeezed its way into the wiring and been electrocuted.) After debating whether or not it was too late to call Robert, one of us finally picked up the telephone and dialed his number. No answer. We waited until a reasonable hour the following morning and tried again. This time, Robert answered and said he’d be over shortly. A bit uncomfortable and rather thirsty, I crawled back into bed to wait it out. Hoping to meet Robert, I left the door to my room cracked so I would hear him pull up on the gravel drive. About forty-five minutes later I climbed out of bed. I walked into the kitchen and tested the faucet: water came gushing out. No one else was awake. Robert had come and gone, his existence confirmed by the only one of us who had seen him.
The pre-visit information provided by Dia Art Foundation informs guests that they will be provided a “simple supper.” Those with dietary restrictions are encouraged to bring their own meals. We packed accordingly, filling totes with supplementary wine and snacks and chocolate. Upon arrival at the cabin, we discovered that the simple supper is in fact a casserole dish brimming with green chile chicken enchiladas. In a small crock pot on the counter, pinto beans simmered. In the refrigerator, homemade flan chilled. The housekeeper lives in the area. I don’t know her name; I have no idea what she looks like. Every day for six months, she prepares the same meal and tidies up while guests are driven to and from the cabin. It is beautifully appointed and impeccable. There’s not a trace of another living soul. J U LY
What happened for me there, out in the Field, was beautiful and meaningful, and that I expected. What I didn’t expect was how deeply those interactions, even if indirect, with the people who facilitate this experience on a day-to-day basis would hit me. Going into The Lightning Field, I was already writing articles in my head about my experience of the Field itself. But coming out of it, I wanted to write about the people who make it happen instead. (De Maria, I imagine, would rather visitors keep their personal experiences of the work to themselves, so I suppose this worked out well.) After our visit, I sent a message to the general email address for The Lightning Field, explaining that I’d like to get in touch with Kim and Robert. Kathleen Shields, the administrator at the time, responded. She suggested that I try to call the office in Quemado. She also said something else that struck me: “Part of their jobs which they do so well is respecting the artist’s wishes for not personalizing The Lightning Field or visitors’ experiences of it so I’m sure they will answer your questions appropriately but also with their characteristic charm and humor.” I asked her to say a bit more about this, if she didn’t mind, because it seemed like a very fine line to navigate. She replied: “De Maria intended that visitors arrive at the site as much like ‘blank slates’ as possible so each may have his/her own personal experience. Robert and Kim are both integral to a visitor’s experience of The Lightning Field but are also very good at answering questions and sharing their experiences of living in the area and their histories with The Lightning Field without interpreting or explaining the work or making themselves the focus of the visitor’s experience. In fact, De Maria himself in general provided only factual statements about all his work and removed his own persona from experiences of it by declining to give interviews or speak publicly about it.” I chew on this for a while and realize it’s true. My experience of The Lightning Field feels very much my own. But those shared moments on the journey in and out constitute a stretch of time and space that frames the Field in a way that is supportive, integral, but separate. THE magazine | 43
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