Nancy Holt, Views through a Sand Dune, 1972. Inkjet print on paper, 49.25 x 36 in.

Excavating Land Art by Women in the 1970s: Discoveries and Oversights

In New York in the 1970s, widespread desire for anti-traditional forms of behavior and art, surging feminist solidarity, and nascent environmentalism moved innovative women sculptors who worked in nature into a new presence in the art world. Not since Henry James’s 1903 sneer about a “strange sisterhood” of expatriate American “lady sculptors” who “settled upon the seven hills in a white, marmorean flock” had women sculptors received such unifying attention. In the decade between the tumultuous ’60s and the flush ’80s, Cecile Abish, Alice Adams, Alice Aycock, Agnes Denes, Harriet Feigenbaum, Suzanne Harris, Nancy Holt, Mary Miss, Patsy Norvell, Jody Pinto, Patricia Johanson, and Athena Tacha, among others, most based in New York City, began to be recognized as a distinctive contingent within the new genre of Land Art. In a 1978 article, “Six Women at Work in the Landscape,” critic April Kingsley asserted, “Women seem to be making most of the really innovative moves in this art form at the moment.”