Earthworks have been a major force in contemporary sculpture since the 1960's. For most artists working within the earthworks tradition, the method of creating a sculpture becomes a part of a process of interpreting their surroundings. As the sculptor works in an area ideas are materialized through the transformation of materials usually found at the sight.
The setting of a sculpture in the natural landscape provides a different set of references than the gallery or museum. The earthwork cannot be self-referential like a painting or sculpture in gallery or museum can. The earthwork's context is part of its content.