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Nancy Holt

(b. 1938)


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(1938– )

American Land artist, photographer and film-maker. Her best known work is Sun Tunnels (1973–6). This consists of four cylinders placed in the Utah desert so that the open ends will capture the rising and setting of the sun during the winter and summer solstices. The walls of the tunnels are pierced with small holes in the pattern of the constellations. Diana Shafer identifies three distinct themes in Holt's work. The first is the site-specific: Holt claims that Sun Tunnels can only exist in that particular place and were inspired by her experience of the desert. The second theme is the influence of the camera: the openings in the work frame natural phenomena like a telescope or camera lens. The third theme is that of time: Holt's work alludes to early methods of time measurement through the movements of the stars. While this suggests an interest in time as something cyclical and constant, Shafer further argues that the ‘architectural identity of the arches, corridors, tunnels, and windows suggests themes of passage or transience’. Holt was also the wife and collaborator of Robert Smithson until his death in 1973, recording his works in film and photography.

Further Reading

D. Shafer, ‘Nancy Holt: Spaces for Reflections or Projections’, in A. Sonfist (ed.), Art in the Land (1983)

Subjects: Art.


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