Lady Eight

A few years ago, we had a conversation with a friend of ours who’s a shareholder owner of a ranch in northern Utah, on the north side of the salt flats and just south of a little town called Park Valley. Trent and I had been interested in building a large labyrinth or geoglyph somewhere for some time, and our friend proposed a piece of “bench” land on the ranch—an area that had once been part of an underwater shoreline slope back in the days of old Lake Bonneville in the late Pleistocene. Before I saw the aerials, I had no particular idea of what I might want to build, but as soon as I saw the patterns of the land, there she was, as if she already existed: The Lady Eight. 

Stretching with her feet northeast and her head and arms southwest, she would extend a half mile in length. I made up some concept sketches, but realized after my first draft that the proposed labyrinthine track would be over ten miles in length—way too long to comfortably walk in a single day, especially in a remote corner of the Utah sage desert! I simplified the design and got the track down to a reasonable two miles. She would be traced by an eight foot roadbed carved into the bench, improved with gravel from a local quarry. We started investigating budget and timeline and put together an initial proposal to build. 

Unfortunately it turned out we could not successfully negotiate a contract with all the ranch owners to actually build the design, but by that point the Lady Eight had taken on a life of her own. I was sketching her all the time, iterating the initial design and the rework over and over again. It got to where I could sketch her entirely from memory. I made a version of her in sculpting epoxy resin on veneer board for a show at a local gallery, intended for people to touch and trace the path of her with their fingers. Before she sold, a group of kids from a local school for the blind came through the gallery and got to interact with her, which made me very happy. 

Since then we have been through the pandemic and our lives have been busy with a lot of other things, but the Lady Eight still awaits, and different versions of her keep arriving. She would even make a great native garden design on about two acres of land in an urban setting. I’m sure that the full size of her will eventually find its proper home, probably somewhere on the edge of the salt flats. Over the years I’ve made her as sculpture and sketches and lino prints, and she has not yet, as they say, achieved her final form. But she’s out there still—I can feel it.