James Wines, Artist, Writes in Support of "Greenwood Pond: Double Site"


On February 18, 2024, James Wines wrote the following letter to the Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) Director Kelly Baum concerning plans to demolish Greenwood Pond: Double Site, a site-specific installation by the internationally acclaimed leader of the land art movement, Mary Miss, commissioned for the Art Center’s permanent collection. The work, which opened in 1996, is in a diminished condition with some sections fenced off, suggesting the DMAC has not fulfilled its contractual obligation to “reasonably protect and maintain” the work. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is calling for the DMAC to reverse it demolition decision and, instead, to engage in meaningful consultations with the artist and others to find a solution that restores the artwork and develops a long-term, ongoing maintenance plan. 




Dear Director Baum,     

I am writing to join a very large portion of the arts community that protests the removal of Mary Miss’s Greenwood Pond environmental sculpture in the Des Moines Art Center collection.  Naturally, everyone I have spoken to about this strange decision has voiced adamant objections; but, I wanted to write you personally to propose a very basic argument against this potential destruction in an institutional context.     

There is no need to offer further support for the importance of Mary as a major American artist, with a formidable reputation in her chosen focus on art in the environment.  Case in point, given the larger picture of today’s earth-centric responsibilities, the just-concluded 2024 Davos World Economic Forum, has declared that attention to this issue is the most important challenge in the world today.  So, on a very basic level, I would think that any Des Moines-based institution would want to be associated with an environmental initiative.  Secondly, this problem is related to the entire culture-based purpose of your museum.  The question is why would the Des Moines Art Center steadfastly preserve all of the art inside its walls as being of precious value, while totally abandoning a major art work just because it is outside?  I am sure any of your curators would experience apoplexy over one small scratch on an object in the collection; so why is an environmental presence deemed worthless?  On multiple levels this is an ethical/aesthetic question that gnaws away at every value the Art Center is supposed to represent and uphold in perpetuity.     

I rest my case.  I hope that the De Moines Art Center will do everything possible to assure preservation of the Mary Miss ‘Double Site’ and, hopefully, understand the symbolic and contextual importance of more environmental art installations in the future.   

Best regards, 

James Wines

President and Creative Director of SITE


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