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Nancy Holt, Sun Tunnels, 1973-1976 | by Retis
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Nancy Holt, Sun Tunnels, 1973-1976

Lucin, Utah


Nancy Holt is most widely known for her large-scale artwork Sun Tunnels (located in Lucin, UT); however, she has created works in public places all over the world. The artist's interest in light, perspective, time, and space certainly influenced her photographs, films, sculpture, and installation art, but perhaps it is most magnificently illustrated in her Land art. Land art emerged in the 1960s, coinciding with a growing ecology movement in the United States, which asked people to become more aware of the impact they can have on the natural environment. Land art changed the way people thought of art; not only did it take art out of the gallery and museum, but it also took art out of the market. Many Land art sites are located in remote, uninhabited regions. We are lucky that such an influential work of art is within a day's drive from the UMFA.


Sun Tunnels consists of four massive concrete tunnels, each eighteen feet long and nine feet in diameter, laid out in the desert in an open X configuration. On the solstices, the tunnels frame the sun as it passes the horizon at sunrise and sunset. In the top of each tunnel, Holt drilled small holes to form the constellations of Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn. These holes, and the tunnels themselves, act as frames or lenses through which the visitor can view the surrounding sky and landscape of the Great Basin Desert.


To create her 1978 film Sun Tunnels, Holt camped for days on end in the barren desert. In Holt's cinematic and photographic documents currently on view at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, we can observe myriad nuances of light and shadow inhabiting the installation over time. But to fully experience this important work of Land art, climb into the tunnels, view the surrounding landscape through the cylindrical frames, and feel the desert air in Utah's Great Basin.

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Taken on June 13, 2015