Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nancy Holt's "Star Crossed"

Undated and unattributed photograph from the Center for Land Use Interpretation website

According to the CLUI database, Nancy Holt's Star Crossed would be closed due to its dilapidated state. Sunday, Amelia and I were on a mission to see it and vowed we would photograph it whether or not we could get close. It was the summer of many earthworks after all. Why not see one in a neighboring state that was only an hour out of our way?

This is what it looked like shortly after it was built (1979-1980). Image via

The CLUI link above also states:

"The piece is made primarily of earth, originally mounded to a height of 14 feet, covering two concrete tubes, one aligned north-south and the other east-west, held in place by a buried steel frame. Until recently, the grounds crew of the University has been attempting to maintain it as part of the landscaping of the property, and it has not been treated as an artwork with special conservatorial needs. Some years ago, due to insufficient irrigation, the grass covering died, and the soil, thus exposed to erosion, slowly slumped down the steep slopes. The sculpture was rebuilt, but with the existing clay subsoil mixed into the topsoil, making for a less resilient form. Efforts to preserve the piece are said to be moving forward, under a new director at the art museum."

Here is the satellite map we were armed with to find Star Crossed after leaving the car in the Miami University Art Museum parking lot. We were hoping for something in between the CLUI photograph above and the cover of Sculpture magazine. We were also grateful that the huge rainstorm (number 746 of the season) had passed. The grass was wet but not muddy. If you think the following photographs are overly saturated, blame the non stop rain as they are close to accurate in color temperature.

First sighting.

Creeping closer...

and closer. There is graffiti on the right side of the interior of the tube. It was a little dank and trashy so we did not venture inside.

View of the 6 PM sun through the concrete tube in the opposite direction. Unlike visiting Sun Tunnels in May, the solar rays were plentiful this afternoon.

Overgrown plaque.

The whole point of the piece (or at least the placement of the top tube) is lost without water. Even all the rain could not fill the pool. We climbed up to the back (yes the soil is still uneven but at least it is not mowed) and looked through, wishfully thinking it would be restored soon.

Apparently, I cannot pass up taking a photograph of my muse in a Smoosh t-shirt.

I do not know what it would take to restore Star Crossed and whether or not that would be Holt's intention. I wish all universities that commissioned these earthworks in the first place had the capability of Western Washington University to maintain them.

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