'Leave no trace' art

 

AGE 21

HOMETOWN Whittier, Calif.

VOCATION Junior; majoring in sculpture at Brigham Young University, Salt Lake City 

HCN SUBSCRIBER SINCE 2004

Installation artist Levi Jackson prefers to work early in the morning to catch the best light for photographing his ephemeral, site-specific works. On a May morning, Levi drove to a desert plateau outside Caineville, Utah, to set up his most recent piece, Reintroduction. No sooner had he filled a grid of 25 transparent acrylic containers with 1,500 pounds of salt and photographed them than he “had to rush to take it down because a huge thunderhead was moving toward me, and it was packing a punch."

Why go to all that trouble? Levi says he wanted to demonstrate that humans can occupy the land without scarring it. In the Caineville area, oil drillers in the '50s caused lasting damage when they hit an underground reservoir of brackish water and abandoned the well without capping it, allowing salt to seep out. Jackson set up his installation, documented it and then cleaned it all up after 30 minutes in order to demonstrate a different way of treating the land. He left behind nothing but what he describes as a “spiritual” impact on the landscape.