Jean Arnold (American, b. 1961), Kennecott: Big Pit, 2012. Oil on canvas. ©Jean Arnold

Once an 8000-foot mountain, the Kennecott Bingham Canyon Copper Mine is now the largest man-made pit in the world. The mine is 2 3/4 miles wide and 3/4 mile deep, and is the second largest copper producer in the United States. The enormous excavation has a striking visual presence, along with a dramatic history that parallels human beings' changing relationship to the environment. Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine, at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts May 30–September 28, presents more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs created by artists from around the country during the mine's 170-year history.

"This is the Bingham Canyon Mine like you've never seen it before," said exhibition curator Donna Poulton. Creation and Erasure gives visitors a rare opportunity to see a high-profile industrial enterprise as a source of aesthetic inspiration. "The art objects mirror cultural attitudes toward the mine and its history," Poulton said. “The mine is a monumental example of human industry and of human manipulation of our landscape. Although it isn’t, and was never intended to be, land art, it continues to attract similar discourse and artistic contemplation.”

Objects for the exhibit come from UMFA's own collections, as well as the Springville Museum of Art, Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, the State Fine Arts Collection/Utah Arts Council, Salt Lake City County Collection, Utah State Historical Society, Rio Tinto Kennecott’s corporate archives, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Library of Congress. Many of the images have never, or rarely, been seen publicly.

Some of the most intriguing works on display include a giant image of the mine captured by an astronaut on the International Space Station, a collection of original silver plate photographs documenting the now-lost mining town of Bingham, Utah as it existed in the 1940s, and a conceptual piece by Robert Smithson proposing a land art installation and reclamation project for the mine when it is no longer productive.

Creation and Erasure is a knockout art exhibit, perfect for UMFA because of its deep connection with Utah history. I recommend going to see it before it's gone, especially if you can take in one of these special museum events:

Panel discussion - Wednesday, June 25, 5 p.m. (free)

  • Donna Poulton, exhibition curator and Modern West Fine Arts co-owner: “H. L. A. Culmer, T. B. H. Stenhouse, and Jean Arnold”
  • Betsy Fahlman, professor of art history at Arizona State University: “The Art of Mining: Jonas Lie at Bingham Canyon”
  • James Swensen, assistant professor of art history at Brigham Young University: “The Objectivity of Political Propaganda: Andreas Feininger’s Documentation of Utah’s Bingham Canyon Mine, 1942

Family Art Activity - Saturday, June 21, 1-4 p.m. (free)

Explore the exhibition and then hammer and shape your own bas-relief, or flat sculpture, from copper.

Member Appreciation Day - Saturday, July 12, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Members-only perks throughout the Museum, including special curator-led tours and 20% discounts at The Museum Store and The Museum Café.

Public Library Presentations: The Chemistry of Art

  • The City Library: Wednesday, July 23, 4–5 p.m.
  • Day-Riverside Branch: Wednesday, July 30, 4–5 p.m.

Explore and experiment with art supplies made from materials mined in Utah: carbon, calcium, iron, copper and gold.

Presentation - Friday, September 19, 5 p.m. (free)

Matthew Coolidge, director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), will talk about the Bingham Pit and its significance in the perceptual arena of the American landscape. The presentation will be heavily illustrated with images and video. Two CLUI photographs of the mine are included in Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine.

Salt Lake City June Events

Salt Lake City's Foothill Cultural District

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is located on the University of Utah campus in the Marcia and John Price Museum Building at 410 Campus Center Drive. The UMFA's mission is to inspire critical dialogue and illuminate the role of art in our lives. General admission is $9 adults, $7 youth and seniors, free for U of U students/staff/faculty, UMFA members, higher education students in Utah, and children under six years old. Thanks to the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks Program, free admission is offered the first Wednesday and third Saturday of each month. Museum hours are Tuesday - Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wednesdays: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Weekends, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Mondays and holidays. For more information call 801-581-7332801-581-7332 or visit