ARTIST: Nancy Holt
ARTWORK: Sun Tunnels
DATE: Completed in 1976.
MATERIALS: 4 concrete tubes @ 18 feet long x 9 ft. diameter
LOCATION: Lucin, Utah
We left the hotel room at around 3:30 am to drive a gravel two-track amid a barren desert scape. Our goal was to watch the new day's light rise up and through one of Nancy Holt's concrete tunnels. On the solstices, the tunnels frame the sun as it passes the horizon at sunrise and sunset, and we were hoping to witness this unfolding of a November day.
It seemed a dubious drive and we were thankful for any sign that affirmed we were not lost. A few hours into the adventure, the headlights glimpsed a tube and knew we made it. Since we were just a few weeks from solstice we had anticipated other onlookers. So we stayed quiet for a while and scouted for campers. But there was nobody there, and we immediately sensed the solitude.
The next job was to find "East." And there was something exhilarating about standing in the cold, clean morning air swiveling our heads, looking for any sign of the illustrious sun, wondering where she would emerge from.
While waiting, we climbed through the tunnels and tried to guess which of the holes drilled in the tubes was which constellation: Draco, Capricorn, Perseus or Columba? [Not that I could remember all the names then.] These holes also show the 7 inch thick walls and serve as an oculus out into the landscape. We didn't venture too far into the land, as we did not know what was there. In fact, if Nancy hadn't left these remains strewn in the desert, we'd swear nobody had set foot on this land for hundreds of years. Her art/legacy was the only evidence of humankind around us for those pre-dawn moments.
Art is amazing.
So we looked for the horizon and waited quietly while drinking cold coffee.
And then she came.
Slowly and perfectly.
Turning the clouds orange then pink - and zillions of colors in between.
The tunnels formed shadows.
The tunnel holes welcomed the light, and reflected the colors of the sky into and upon them.
As the sun got higher, she centered herself in the tunnel.
She was perfectly and majestically framed.
Full of promise and innocence.
And we were there.
Gratefully and fully.