Sun Tunnels photo studies

Nancy Holt
Eighty-three black and white Instamatic photographs with graphite on reverse
3 ½ x 3 ½ in. (9 x 9 cm) each

Nancy Holt developed the idea for her landmark earthwork Sun Tunnels over three years between 1973 and 1976. Part of the process involved using cardboard tubes to model potential configurations for Sun Tunnels, and then photographing these models to understand the shifting shadows and scale of the earthwork. In these photo studies from 1975 we see Holt experimenting with the layout of the tunnels, trying out sizes and configurations of the constellations in the roof of the tunnels, and simulating the effect of constricting vision through the sculpture to frame the landscape. Scrawled on the back of each photo study are notes about the orientation, time, and constellation Holt was testing in each image. Through this expansive series of over eighty images we begin to see patterns emerge in Holt's studio practice—illustrating her systematic approach to making sculpture, directly informed by her background and interest in natural science, photography, and light. 


Writing by the Artist

Sun Tunnels

Nancy Holt

Sun Tunnels, 1973–76, is built on forty acres, which I bought in 1974 specifically as a site for the work. The land is in the Great Basin Desert in northwestern Utah, about four miles southeast of Lucin (pop. ten) and nine miles east of the Nevada border.

Sun Tunnels marks the yearly extreme positions of the sun on the horizon—the tunnels being aligned with the angles of the rising and setting of the sun on the days of the solstices, around June 21st and December 21st. On those days the sun is centered through the tunnels, and is nearly center for about ten days before and after the solstices.

Related Info

See Also

Hydra's Head
Nancy Holt
Along the Niagara River, Artpark, Lewiston, New York, USA