Nancy Holt, Between Heaven and Earth
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Nancy Holt, Between Heaven and Earth follows the career path that led Holt to Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings, which is part of Western Washington’s Sculpture Collection. Aligning itself with her deep-seated desire to work across professional fields, the trans-disciplinary exhibition addresses not just the complexities of her artwork but her interests in sciences, from geology, biology, ecology, surveying technology to astronomy.
The exhibition incorporates several important formational works, on loan from the Holt-Smithson Foundation: Holt’s Locators, Concrete Poems, and a photographic series called Light and Shadow. Of these the two Locator pieces are most important. These early lensless, sighting devices set the visual syntax that informs Holt’s entire body of work, including Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings. They demonstrate her career-long interest in visual perception and the interconnectedness between directional awareness and how we locate ourselves within a physical place.
Taking cues from Holt’s practice, the exhibition presents an experiential, immersive installation that visualizes the astronomical aspects of Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings. The multidisciplinary installation employs lights that schematically map the locations of Ursa Major and Minor on the gallery ceiling. As in Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings, viewers can align themselves with the cardinal axis of Earth. In the half-lit room, they can engage with Polaris, and explore Holt’s interest in bringing “the [night] sky down to the earth.” By demonstrating a profound sense of connectivity, combining a cosmic perspective with a deep understanding of geological form, Holt asks us to think, through her art, about our place on this planet — our existence between heaven and earth.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Barbara Miller, Professor of Art History at WWU.