Last night I had the pleasure to find an unexpected film-based work at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. William Lamson’s Action for the Delaware is as captivating as it is difficult to characterize.

Lamson himself, and the Delaware River, are both subjects in this work. In essence, the artist attempts (and succeeds) in giving the illusion that he’s standing on the surface of the river. But rather than leave it at that, which is interesting enough, the film intersperses clips of Lamson struggling with the floating platform that he uses to stand on, while it remains submerged just enough to be out of sight.

I’ve long been a fan of various forms of land art, which originated in the 1970s and was made famous by works like Spiral Jetty, which projects out into the Great Salt Lake, by William Smithson. That same tradition of manipulated landscapes lives on in projects like James Turrell’s Roden Crater project, a kind of inside-a-mountain light observatory, outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. And artists like Andy Goldsworthy brought a different perspective to the land art movement, working mostly with on-site, ephemeral objects like sticks, leaves and ice.

But Lamson’s approach is different because it inherently involves the artist himself, in a way that is rarely seen in art. The artists’ self is usually viewed through his or her creation, having established an identity in the end result through the subject, style and materials. The work in progress is rarely seen. Lamson brings something really different into play when we see him in the act of creating site-specific work that combine a landscape, some object or series of objects, and his own body. I was struck by the integrity and authenticity of Action for the Delaware, and have since found myself online watching his Hunt and Gather, A Light Describing the Sun and other videos.