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Star-Crossed

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(Fall, 1979 - Construction of Star-Crossed)

Star-Crossed, a sculpture created and installed in 1979, is one of many sculptures that can be found in Miami University’s sculpture park which is located on the outside boundaries of the Miami University Art Museum. Famous American sculptor Nancy Holt, known for land art, cites this as one of her most famous pieces in her lifetime. Located on the east side of the museum, this sculpture isn’t easily missed. Standing at fourteen feet high, Star-Crossed is a sculpture that can be seen from a distance. During the 1970’s, an art movement arose known as Land Art or Earthworks. The movement was an outgrowth of Conceptualism and Minimalism. Land Art was known to be an artistic protest against the artificiality and commercialization of art. Consisting mostly of Earth (soil), two cement barrels, and a steel frame, Holt's main intention of this sculpture, was to be made of mostly natural materials. Earth sculpture is a 3 dimensional art where earth materials are used as an art form. Natural materials from the earth itself are used in unusual ways to display different types of beauty.

Star-Crossed was created using modes of expression beyond the confines of walled spaces. Creating art that is not constricted to be shown in a museum gives the possibility for it to reorient the viewer; to become more aware of spatial and environmental conditions. It begins to introduce the viewer of the piece to experience nature and its effects on us as artists, as well as our responsibilities towards the environment. These types of works were criticized for their inaccessibility and inability to sell. Another sculpture by Nancy Holt, Polar Circle, was initially the major land sculpture that Miami University had invited her to create for the campus. This sculpture was made with old abandoned lamposts found on the site that Holt considered "materials with a past." Polar Circle unfortunately no longer stands on campus and was destroyed shortly after it was installed, apparently by the grounds crew. Star-Crossed was then constructed in 1979, and although not in the greatest condition, still stands today.

This sculpture was designed to mimic the Southwest Ohio’s Indian mounds and the countryside. The site was chosen behind the art museum because Holt was impressed by the rolling landscape which mimicked the Indian mounds. Star-Crossed was funded by many different groups; The Visual Arts Club, the Art Museum, the Department of Architecture, the Ohio Arts Council, the offices of Alumni and Development, as well as a private donor. Much of the sculpture was made with volunteer help and donated materials. Holt had this design in mind to align the piece with the true astronomical North, centered on the star Polaris. In Oxford, astronomical North corresponds with magnetic North. Studies were done that in a city 20 miles north, Eaton Ohio, this was not the case. Depending how much iron can be found in the land, Magnetic North fluctuates. In Oxford, the compass pointed exactly to the Magnetic North in October of 1979. Unfortunately, the astronomical North changes constantly with the movement of the Earth in relation to Polaris, but Holt was satisfied with its success in 1979. Many of Nancy Holt’s works are in some relation to the sky. She believes that the act of viewing the landscape through the tunnels by framing a segment of the landscape allows a greater appreciation of that tiny bit of the world. Holt also claims that this work is a psychological as well as physiological work because there is possibility of allowing visual as well as tactile appreciation.

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(Fall, 1979)