Artist Presentation – Nancy Holt

Within Introduction to Sculpture, we were asked to present a PowerPoint to the group about a contemporary sculptor, looking at 6 – 10 artworks of theirs. I chose Nancy Holt, who is known for her large scale and public sculptures.

The PowerPoint used, can be found here; Nancy Holt – Artist Presentation.

Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1938. Her father was a chemical engineer, her mother was a homemaker and she graduated from Tufts University in 1960 as a biology major. Holt moved to New York and worked alongside Michael Heizer, Carl Andre, Eva Hesse, Richard Serra and her husband, Robert Smithson.

Holt was a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements, and helped to develop unique aesthetic of perception. This enables visitors to her sites to engage with the landscape in new and challenging ways. Working in many mediums, she was a pioneer of site-specific installation and film and video work.

There was an exploration and revision of the ways people viewed the world around them, and Holt wanted to make it simpler –

“I wanted to bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale. I had no desire to make a megalithic monument. The panoramic view of the landscape is too overwhelming to take in without visual reference points… through the tunnels, parts of the landscape are framed and come into focusthe work encloses surrounds…


Concrete Visions, 1967

Concrete Visions (1967)
Composite inkjet print of archival rag paper taken from original 126 format black and white negatives; printed 2012. 35 x 35 inches; 88.9 x 88.9 cm.
Holt’s early photographs laid the foundation for her sculpture work. She photographed the sites where Smithson would obtain the materials for his work. There is an exploration of perception, seeing frames within frames. By arranging the work in sequences, it offers multiple perspective compromising the whole of art, and rejects one-point perspective.



Western Graveyards, 1968

Western Graveyards (1968)
60 inkjet prints on archival rag paper, printed from original 126 format transparencies; printed 2012. 18 x 18 inches; 45.7 x 45.7 cm.
This work compromises of old cemeteries in the deserts of Nevada and California, many fenced off and overgrown. Holt uses this work as an anthropological study through photography. Holt takes the grave and makes it a work of art, making graves gallery shots. Holt was drawn to the graves because they captured “how people thought about space out the West; their last desire was to delineate a little plot of their own because there was so much vastness.” This reflects her ongoing interest in human interventions in the landscape.


Hydra’s Head, 1974

Hydra’s Head (1974)
This work is much of an unknown, as documentation of the work has been kept to a minimum. It is an arrangement of concrete cylinders in a riverbank that corresponds to the constellation above. Holt’s work consistently sets us on the ground, only to have us look up at the sky.



holt_pinebarrens_xlPine Barrens (1975)
30:24 min; colour, sound, film on HD video.
This video shows the desolate sand and pipe landscapes of central New Jersey. The visual work is combined with audio of local music and interviews with residents, known as ‘Pineys’. What is heard is feelings about the land, their attitudes to city life and myths of the area. It adds a psychological dimension to the landscape. Holt is concerned with evoking a wilderness in south-central New Jersey. The camera is always in motion – tracking, pivoting and walking through landscape.


Sun Tunnels, 1973-6

Sun Tunnels (1973-6)
Concrete, steel, earth, 111 x 822 x 636 in.; 281.9 x 2087.9 x 1615.4 cm.
This is Holt’s most infamous large scale installation works in Great Basic Desert, Utah. It composes of four large concrete cylinders, arranged on the desert floor in a cross pattern, that align with the sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices. Each of the cylinders are pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations; Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn. Holt’s design allows for an ever-changing play of light and shadow upon the surfaces of her work. The work focuses our vision and challenging our understanding of an environment. Holt’s work draws our attention to the complexities of our relationship with the landscape we inhabit and act upon.

Sculptural sites allow the viewer the channel vastness of nature into human scale while creating contemplative, subjective experience grounded in a specific location in real time.


Dark Star Park, 1979-84

Dark Star Park (1979-84)
This was publicly commissioned by Arlington County, Virginia, in conjunction with an urban renewal project. Holt transformed two thirds of an acre that was once a gas station and dilapidated warehouse into a municipal park with pools, spheres tunnels. The forms are a contrast to the busy and highly developed commercial area that surrounds the space. the materials are common to the area and used as building materials. It is an interactive space where the work alters the viewer’s perception by using curvilnear forms. The work explores the concept of time and out relationship with the universe, inked to Holt’s obsession with solar eclipses. Each year at 9:32am on August 1, the date in 1860 on which the land became Rosslyn was purchased, the natural shadows of the sculptures align with the fabricated shadows.

“It’s called Dark Star Park because in my imagination there spheres are like stars that have fallen to the ground – they no longer shine – so I think of the park/artwork in a somewhat celestial way.”


Solar Rotary, 1995

Solar Rotary (1995)
University of South Florida, Tampa
This is a public art installation of eight connected poles and benches arranged in a circular plaza. It is influences by the sun’s movement and the summer solstice. The piece includes several elements including a central circular stone with a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite, seats at North South East West and five plaques and benches commemorating significant events in Florida’s history with considerate planting. On any given day, Solar Rotary will cast its dynamic sun symbol shadow in a continuously changing pattern on the pavement below, highlighting plaques on their corresponding dates.


Sculpture: Plaster Assignment

Our first assignment for sculpture was based around the material of plaster and our manipulation of it in several projects.

The first project was a leaf cast, to get us used to mixing plaster and the way it behaves, from and thin detailed mould to a thicker paste that can be smothered on.

Our second project bought us to the largest portion of the assignment: a plaster head. The challenge was to transform the plaster head using clay and a variety of other materials. This project allowed a further experimentation with plaster, pushing our thoughts of its capabilities. With no set instructions, it was interesting to see where instincts lead the projects, and the found materials that influenced it.

The third project was an alginate mould and cast. After previous alginate experience, I felt relatively comfortable with what was needed. As I had previously completed a hand, I decided to turn towards a foot mould and cast, allowing to see a different perspective of my own toes.

A fourth project was that of a relief cast, and pushing objects into clay before pouring plaster. This project allowed us to view the detail that plaster was able to pick up, especially with just clay as the base of the mould.

A final plaster project for the assignment was based on a two-part mould. This mould allowed us to see the strength of the plaster, and how far we could take it outside of this particular project. There was several difficulties during the mould and cast for this, however it was rectified to make a good set of casts.

A sketchbook accompanied these five projects, showcasing the steps for each plaster project, along with ideas, artists and sketches of final works.

We were able to choose the display for the set of projects for the plaster assignment. I felt that displaying on a table allowed viewers to interact, and travel around the piece, seeing detail from all sides. I positioned the smaller items on small plain tiles that were found in the department, off-setting the areas from a worktable to a display area. I felt that the design of the display worked well, and was able to showcase all the pieces. If I were to display again, I would have liked to have chosen a cleaner area with more natural light to showcase the delicacies of each plaster project I completed.

Once a group critique was completed, we were able to display our plaster heads in a public area of the university. All the pieces were positioned in two areas. As each piece was displayed on different bases, there was a variety of natural heights that the heads sat at, ensuring the eye travelled between them. I thought that the display of them tied in very successfully with each other, and with other artwork that was preexisting in the room.

Overall, I feel that these projects were completed successfully, and I was able to follow the guidelines, without setting rules. Throughout each project, I felt very at ease not necessarily knowing what I was doing every step of the way, and this was refreshing. I believe that because I felt refreshed, I was able to create some successful works.

Photography Assignment One

There were two main elements to the first photography assignment; pinhole or constructed camera photography and photograms and ‘invented’ negative photography. Each had their own difficulties, as I found I had a block as to what I can use as a subject – my mind was relatively closed throughout the project, and I did not step too far out of my comfort zone. Because of this, I was only okay with the selection that I handed in for this first assignment. I felt that it showed the diversity of all the pieces that I created, while also displaying my technical skills both in and out of the darkroom. If I were to do the project again, I would have looked at a wider variety of simple photograms and invented negatives, as this worked best. I would also try to get a cleaner developing technique as a streak of black can be seen on many of the pinhole camera positives.

Music And Movement

While in University of Ottawa, I was able to take a 1 credit workshop on music and movement and the Dalcroze model. This workshop was not what I expected, as we used our bodies, and other equipment, to become more in tune with not only the music that others and ourselves produced, but also with our instincts. Much of the time we used improvisation, and building upon previous exercises, including quick reaction and rhythm exercises.

Within the two day workshop, one of my favourite parts was an improvisation with chairs, in which we chose a partner to improvise with, along with the chairs. There was an exploration of the chairs, developing your relationship with them. Within this exercise, we were able to move with, against, or in contrast with the music. This showed me that there was a deeper relationship between body, movement and sound than I originally anticipated.

I also found the singing exercises very useful, as we moved our bodies on instinct with the tune of the singing and accompanying piano. The movement and singing allowed a more intimate interaction with the melody, bringing me a further understanding of how movement, melody and instinct can play an important part within works. I found that I was able to push some of my limits of where I was comfortable within the workshop, allowing me to pursue more of the knowledge that was available.

I would find the application of what I have learnt in the two day workshop to my own artwork interesting, especially if I continue to work with digital mediums and performance. The movement and accompanying music can completely alter the ambience of the piece produced. I would enjoy the exploration of different movement, and different sounds to produce my artwork.

Below is some of the piano music that we used within the workshops: