Sunlight in Sun Tunnels

Nancy Holt
July 14, 1976
Sun Tunnels, Lucin, Utah
Archival Inkjet print
50 x 61 ½ in. (127 x 156 cm)

On July 14, 1976 Nancy Holt charted the evolving light and shadow falling to the interior space of one of the cylinders forming her landmark earthwork Sun Tunnels (1973-76). Every half hour, between 6:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., she meticulously used her camera to fix the ever-changing rise and set of the sun, bringing together this fifteen hour process into a single composite photograph. Sunlight in Sun Tunnels makes material Holt’s wish to bring the stars down to earth; the perforations in the surface of the tunnel map out star constellations, the holes bringing the sunlight to the ground in an echo of the celestial pattern above. July 1976 marked the completion of Sun Tunnels and, along with this work, Holt created the photographic series Sun Tunnels: Sunrise and Sun Tunnels: Shifting Shadows.


Writings by Nancy Holt

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.

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