Timefulness: Temporal Multiplicity in the Work of Nancy Holt

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0009-0009-5131-4038
Piccorossi, Krystyna, Art History - Art Department, University of Virginia
Skerritt, Henry, AS-Art (ARTD), University of Virginia

American artist Nancy Holt (1938-2014) is known for her public sculptures and works of Land art that are oriented in cosmic alignment towards the solstices, stars, or constellations. Two of her later works, however, are unique in Holt’s oeuvre as the only of the artist’s works that commemorate historical events: Dark Star Park (1979-1984) and Solar Rotary (1995). This marking of historical dates is significant because Holt’s work – along with that of other associated Land artists – has long been characterized by both supporters and critics (and indeed the artist herself) as evoking a timelessness which elides human history. By examining the temporality of Dark Star Park and Solar Rotary, I argue for a reassessment of Holt’s work based on its awareness of temporal plurality. My central claim is that these works resist the label of timelessness by integrating multiple orientations that instead formulate a timefulness. Borrowing this word from Holt, I define the timefulness of the artist’s sculptures using the notion of the “thickened present,” a present that is textured and complex from the layering together of multiple temporalities. In doing so, Dark Star Park and Solar Rotary trouble the regime of linear historical time, preempting the “temporal turn” that would later become a prominent strain of contemporary art and theory in the following decades.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
Nancy Holt, Land art, Public art, Sculpture
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