The sighs of Site Summit

August 27, 2011 

On Aug. 18, multi-media artist Daniel Joseph Martinez paid a visit to Site Summit, the abandoned Cold War Nike missile facility located atop a peak in the Chugach Mountains overlooking Anchorage.

Martinez, who has twice participated in the Whitney Biennial exhibit and received three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, was in Alaska as the recipient of a USA Artists grant, serving as artist-in-residence at the Anchorage Museum this month.

Martinez said he was attracted to the site, which was active from 1959 to 1979, because of how it preserved a piece of the nation's cultural history in a society inclined to forget its past. "We don't keep much of our architecture," he said -- particularly on the West Coast.

Today the buildings suffer from neglect and deterioration, prey to vandals and the elements, while efforts begin to try to preserve at least part of the site. Paint is peeling, plaster has crumbled, glass is shattered.

But Martinez found "something beautiful" in the stark pragmatism of the "down and dirty bunkers." "I could never experience anything like this anywhere else in the country," he said.

Daily News photographer Marc Lester accompanied Martinez and took these photographs. They catch the artist at work, but, perhaps more important, create a portrait of a former fortress, once a steel fist in America's confrontation with the Soviet Empire, now in a state of decay inhabited by only the ghostly sighs of the wind.

Daniel Joseph Martinez and escorts from Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson tour the Nike missile installation. (Video by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News)

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