The use of 'nature's materials' in art
This artistic medium first began in the late 1960's. This is a confusing merge of references, as Earth art and Land art both use the same materials, and choose the same outdoor settings, but they are very different in intent. The difference is not so much an aspect of technique, but rather in that Earth art approaches nature almost reverently, disturbing it organically, while Land art capitalizes on the possibilities of controlling it. Artists of this style chose to make the landscape and the earth itself a fitting material for artistic expression and they use all of its elements- dirt and ash, rocks, snow, wood and other natural resources. This art is intrinsically anonymous, going against the traditional view of art as sellable merchandise- as property. This kind of art focuses on everything but the decorative side of art and it's also fleeting, as nature changes moment by moment, taking back the order that man claims briefly.
Land art as an attempt to control nature
The most famous Land artist is Christo Javacheff, who experimented in “environmental projects” in the 60's; wrapping monument large public buildings with huge sheets of plastic and creating an absurd package. His is a grandiose statement of the artist's control over his environment; making the viewer stop in confusion that something so naturally in context, such as a building in a city street, should be taken out of context- dwarfed by a sheet of plastic. Some, like Michael Heizer created natural sculptures in the desert or on seaside beaches by transferring huge amounts of dirt and rock from one place to another. Heizer is definitely an Earth artist, approaching his subject matter of nature on massive scale. Far away from the galleries and museums, Heizer creates dramatically minimalist photographic images that both celebrate the purity of nature and drive the viewer to a conceptual line of thought.
Earth art as an attempt to merge with nature
Richard Long takes photographs of his earth-sculptures and these are the end product of his art form. Long begins by making marks in the sand or lining up rocks in certain patterns and then documenting his interference of nature. Walter De-Maria also created outdoor earth-sculpture, and even some very minimally figurative human figures, but he became most well-known for bringing the outdoor, physical world into the art gallery spaces, mixing the outer world with the inner, enclosed world of art. Bringing earth into the gallery seemed to imply that perhaps the philosophies and values of the earth, of the outer world, could also be brought into the gallery with them. The material itself was given symbolic significance and power.