Jonathan Thompson wrote the following in HCN (25 Jun 2012) about Nancy Holt’s earthwork “masterpiece,” the Sun Tunnels:
[Nancy] Holt began work on the Sun Tunnels in 1975, on 40 acres that she bought the year before. It consists of four 22-ton concrete tunnels arranged in a big X, in what at first appears to be an utterly random location and configuration. It is both sculpture and observatory: Each tunnel has holes drilled into it that line with the constellation, and each pair of tunnels respectively aligns with sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices. The work is a descendant of the ancestral Puebloan solstice markers in Hovenweep and on Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon.
I wanted to bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale,” wrote Holt in 1977. “The panoramic view of the landscape is too overwelming to take in without visual reference points.”
There are no somber museum guards here, snipping at us for standing too close to the art. A Cezanne or a Caravaggio can be comprehended from a reasonable distance, even from a good print or photo of the work. Land art demands that the viewer physically interact with it, even clambering on or through the scupture. The old subject-object relationship that exists with more traditional art is demolished, and the boundary between the artwork and its surroundings is also lost. . . .
In this way, successful land art serves as a bridge between human beings and the landscape. At its best, it repeats and shares the experience Holt had when she first ventured West, and realized that “inside and outside were the same. I was the land and sky and the land and sky was me.”
The Sun Tunnels are located approx. 50 miles north of Wendover NV, on the Utah/Nevada border. You can get instruction on how to get there from the local BLM office. Don’ go there unless you are prepared for a desert ride on a bumpy gravel road.
For other examples of earth art, click on “monumental” on the right side of this page.