Western Graveyards, Nancy Holt

Artist: Nancy Holt

Title: “Western Graveyards”

Characteristics: Photography

Keywords: death, fear, community

             In the photographic work of Nancy Holt, named “Western Graveyards”, the artist represents 60 photographs depicting graveyards found in deserts in Nevada and California. The work, influenced by Land Art tries to understand the relationship between space, time and human condition. Graveyards are often fenced and delimited spaces in the vastness of the desert. That suggests that people needed to delimitate a space, to grasp an understanding of the vastness of the surrounding space.

                        “how people thought about space out West; their last desire was to delineate a little plot of their own because there was so much vastness.”

            This could also be applied to historical, philosophical and political human endeavors, as attempts to delimitate and understand the vastness of existence through the construction of “limits” in our thoughts, ideas, emotions. For example, political identities, nationalist discourses, historiography, ideologies, scientific categorization of nature, personal neuroses and obsessions about how something “must be”, all try to make sense of chaos by delimitating our thought in a constrained yet “meaningful” way. Also, death works here as a symbol of the ultimate fear of the chaotic and the unknown.

Nancy Holt, Western Graveyards, 1968



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