The American Environmental Artist Nancy Holt best-known for her installations including Sun Tunnels,” has died age 75. Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1938. As an only child, she spent a great deal of time in New Jersey, where her father worked as a chemical engineer and her mother a homemaker. She studied biology at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Three years after graduating, she married fellow environmental artist Robert Smithson in 1963. Holt began her artistic career as a photographer and as a video artist. In 1974, she collaborated with fellow artist Richard Serra on Boomerang, in which he videotaped her listening to her own voice echoing back into a pair of headphones after a time lag, as she described the disorienting experience.
Her involvement with photography and camera optics are thought to have influenced her later earthworks, which are “literally seeing devices, fixed points for tracking the positions of the sun, earth and stars.” Holt’s environmental works, Sun Tunnels and Dark Star Park were created as site and time-specific environmental works in public places all over the world. Holt contributed to various publications, which have featured both her written articles and photographs. She also authored several books. Holt received five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, New York Creative Artist Fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Holt along with Beverly Pepper was a recipient of the International Sculpture Center’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. From 1995 to 2013, she worked and resided in Galisteo, New Mexico.
In 2008 Holt helped rally opposition to a plan for exploratory drilling near the site of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty at the Great Salt Lake in rural Utah. After Smithson’s death, Holt never remarried. Ms. Holt died Feb. 8 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She was 75. The cause was leukemia, her friend Carlotta Schoolman said.
Photo: Sun Tunnels — Courtesy Amiee Maxwell