Friday, February 21, 2014

An Inspiration Dies

I have to admit that I know very little about renowned artist, Nancy Holt who recently passed away. The obituary tells me that she was 75 and died of leukemia. I used her remote land art Sun Tunnels as inspiration for my book Sun Tunnels and Secrets. My husband Mick and I had tried to find the Sun Tunnels a couple of times and when we finally did, it was between novels. My first book, A Question of Trust was out, my second was on its way, and I was hoping to keep writing about the west desert area of Grouse Creek, Utah. When we saw the land art, my husband suggested that Sam, a character in both books find a body at the unique and desolate sculptures. I liked the idea and had been toying around with that idea when my good friend Diane called and told me a story about some friends of ours, older women, at least older than us, who had ventured out from Grouse Creek to the Sun Tunnels and had come across a man who had been abandoned in the desert by "his friends." Wow, the story was full of interesting tidbits and even though a serious situation, was kind of comical. My mind leapt at the idea of not Sam finding a body in the desert, but older women. That was the beginning of my novel when three sisters in their late 70's to early 80's find a naked man who by all appearances is dead.

I've written two books since that one, but for some of my readers it's their favorite. While researching the book, I found out a little more about Nancy Holt. I was so fascinated by her, and feel so badly now that I missed my one chance to meet her. She came out to speak about her projects a couple of years ago. My family and I drove clear out to the Sun Tunnels, about 150 miles, to see her at her beloved sculptures and I didn't dare introduce myself. Still I could tell by her delightful smile and by her work that she is someone I would have loved to meet. It's sad that her husband, also a land artist Robert Smithson, responsible for the Spiral Jetty, was killed in a plane crash decades ago. The obituary said she had no survivors which leads me to believe she never married. I romanticized this in my book and imagined that the Sun Tunnels had been a tribute to her late husband. But this is something I don't know--her inspiration for creating the sculptures, but I do know that they are an inspiration for me, not just for my novel, but for the feeling that you get from the dramatic view of the sun setting encircled in the dark frame. Next time I go out there, I'll feel gratitude for the life of Nancy Holt and her vision.