In 1970, Robert Smithson visited Utah's "red lake" (i.e., the North Arm) that he had been researching enthusiastically. Shortly thereafter he undertook construction of the Spiral Jetty, which later came to be known as an Earthworks project. Earthworks projects became a trend in the 1970s artist community as the world became aware of environmental issues, and artists wanted canvases not restrained by gallery walls and artificial light. Spiral Jetty is a 1,500-foot spiral of earth and rocks that is periodically covered and uncovered by GSL depending on water levels in the North Arm. Although the governor at the time spoke at the unveiling, it was an incredibly controversial work of art in conservative Utah. Incidentally, Smithson's wife, Nancy Holt, later constructed Sun Tunnels in northwestern Utah after Robert Smithson's death.
Pecking and painting (petroglyphs and pictographs respectively) started occurring more often around the lake as the Ice Age was coming to an end. The lake began receding and the native peoples became more nomadic, thus wanting to document their stories and presence in areas. Then, around 1,500 years ago, the Desert Archaic style (circular and abstract) began to evolve into the Fremont style (more representational and realistic looking). After the highly nomadic Ute Indians made contact with the Spanish in the South, modern horse figures began to overlay the Fremont style, marking this significant event in Utah Native American history. The diversity of artistic styles represents the mixing of cultures around Great Salt Lake. Many anthropologists consider the native art in GSL area of great significance due to religious, ceremonial, and cultural references and insights.