I think earth is the material with the most potential because it is the original source material.

-Michael Heizer


One of the founders and most prominent practitioners of the "land art" or "earth art" movement, Michael Heizer has, since the 1960s, challenged the art world to escape the confines of the gallery or the museum and inhabit nature itself -- and dared viewers to experience art on a super-human scale.

Michael Madden Heizer was born on November 4, 1944 in Berkeley, California to Robert Fleming Heizer and Nancy Elizabeth Jenkins. Heizer's father, Robert, who grew up in Lovelock, Nevada, was one of the most prominent anthropologists of his time, teaching for almost thirty years at the University of California, Berkeley and authoring numerous influential books, particularly about Native American culture in the West.

Heizer was exposed to numerous influences during his youth that would later shape his art -- not only his father's anthropological field work, which took him to rural California, Nevada, Peru, and Bolivia, but also the work of his maternal grandfather, Olaf P. Jenkins, who was a geologist. Heizer briefly attended the San Francisco Art Institute from 1963–64 but moved to New York in 1966, where he was in contact with a number of prominent artists of the day, including Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Walter De Maria, Tony Smith, and Frank Stella. Heizer's early works included a number of more conventional abstract paintings and sculptures, but he evidently soon found New York constraining.

With colleague Walter de Maria, Heizer went west in 1967, and created a new genre of "land art" or "earth art," which used the earth as its medium. Far from the cramped studios of New York, and outside the confines of the museum's white walls, his works reached unprecedented size, culminating in what is perhaps his most famous work, Double Negative. He collaborated with many of the early earth artists, even appearing in Robert Smithson's film about Spiral Jetty, perhaps the most widely recognized example of earth art.

In 1972, Heizer began construction on a massive installation known as City in the rural desert of Lincoln County, Nevada. Since then, Heizer has grown increasingly shy of media attention, and has become known as something of a recluse. Nevertheless, he has continued to produce sculptures and paintings on a smaller scale (relatively speaking, that is).  His works have been featured in numerous solo exhibitions (most prominently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and more recently at the Gagosian Gallery in New York). His works now appear in museums and public spaces worldwide.

In 1995, Heizer was diagnosed with a neurological disorder known as polyneuropathy, which reduced his ability to use his hands. Despite this, Heizer continues work on his magnum opus, City, to this day.  

Heizer splits his time between New York City and Nevada.