Walter De Maria
American sculptor



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Walter De Maria
American sculptor
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Birth Date

October 01, 1935

Death Date

July 25, 2013

jcappetta's picture


A young Walter De Maria wrote that natural disasters are the highest form of art.

Trying to measure up to the Old Masters is hard enough, but a tornado? A hurricane? That bar is WAY too high. He gave a single interview to the Archives of American art in 1972 and stayed quiet for the following 41 years until he died, apparently not trying to talk much until he became a cyclone. He married, had no kids, then divorced after 11 years and never remarried. The quest to be weather consumed him.

Despite a violent aversion to all things not related to meteorological events (especially words) he did quite a lot between being born next to Berkeley, CA in 1935 and dying in L.A. (terrible fate) in 2013. He finished a degree in history at Berkeley and played jazz shows everyday, then he decided that actually he would be an artist and got a masters in painting. Painting bored De Maria, too many colors probably, so he switched to making wooden boxes because boxes “contained all the right information about the universe and about oneself and about the time.”

Somewhere in there he was the drummer for the Velvet Underground (before Andy drew them a banana. De Maria had the same existential crisis every few years through the 60s and 70s: art or music, art or music, art or music. For someone who second guessed themselves so often he makes the decision sound easy, “I didn’t really personally want to live that kind of a dead drunk absolutely raving wild man’s life.”

Artists may be “dumb” (his word), Willem de Kooning AND New York City might be “childish,” but he spent his life making art alongside other artists in New York. Self-loathing does great things for your productivity apparently. De Maria became the primary artist of the Dia Foundation, which gave him lots of money to do things like stick metal poles in the ground, break metal poles into small pieces, make shish-kebabs out of Chevrolets, and put “all of that dirt in the room.”

De Maria was adamant that the best art, like life, is meaningless. Like filing letters in a filing cabinet as long as “one were not a secretary, and if one scattered the file on the floor periodically.” Unless you actually “lie down and die,” the art isn’t working. Which explains why he considered natural disasters the highest form of art, many people do actually lie down and die and there is no meaning.




  1. De Maria, Walter. “Compositions, Essays, Meaningless Work, Natural Disasters.” (1961) Stendahl Gallery, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2018. _id=4846
  2. De Maria, Walter. Interviewed by Paul Cummings. “Oral history interview with Walter De Maria, 1972 October 4.” Smithsonian Archives of American Art, 1972. Accessed Jan 16, 2018. ADCD
  3. Lesser, Casey. August 31, 2017. “Four Years after Walter De Maria’s Death, His Final Work Is Complete.” Artsy, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2018. artsy-editorial-four-years-walter-de-marias-death-final-work-complete
  4. Roberta Smith, July 26, 2013, “Walter De Maria, Artist on Grand Scale, Dies at 77,” The New York Times, 2018, accessed January 16, 2018. /design/walter-de-maria-artist-on-grand-scale-dies-at-77.html

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Walter De Maria

Walter Joseph De Maria (October 1, 1935 – July 25, 2013) was an American artist, sculptor, illustrator and composer, who lived and worked in New York City. Walter de Maria's artistic practice is connected with Minimal art, Conceptual art, and Land art of the 1960s.

LACMA director Michael Govan said that "I think he's one of the greatest artists of our time." Govan, who worked with De Maria for a number of years, found De Maria's work "singular, sublime and direct."

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Walter De Maria.