Art Matters: Jenny Holzer’s ‘125 Years’

A new installment in the ‘Art Matters’ series is a historical meander through en plein air text-based art and landscape design.

Partial view of a bench and walkway from Jenny Holzer’s 125 Years installation on Penn’s campus.
Jenny Holzer (B. 1950)
“125 Years” 2003
Granite and landscaping mixed media
Location: The Woodland Walk diagonal through Hill Square

In 2003, the Women’s Sculpture Project transformed the Hill Field open space bounded by 33rd, 34th, Walnut, and Chestnut streets into Hill Square. The installation incorporates landscaping and lighting that accentuate a poplar-lined, curving brick walkway dotted with 22 granite benches and matching granite curbing on the walkway inscribed with text chosen by text-based artist Jenny Holzer from the University Archives and Records Center. Holzer collaborated with the project’s landscape architect, Olin Partnership of Philadelphia, and the lighting designer, L’Observatoire of New York.

Holzer was commissioned by the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women, and the project was completed in 2003. The 125-year anniversary dates back to 1876, when Anna Lockhart Flanigan and Gertrude Klein Peirce were the first female students admitted to collegiate courses in the Towne Scientific School, now the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Holzer’s choice of quotes include topics outside of a rose-colored celebration of feminism and victory. The quotes follow the timeline of the first women in degree programs, through the formation of the College for Women in 1933, to the appointment of Judith Rodin as the first (non-interim) female president of the University in 1994, ending at the turn of the 20th century.

“Holzer was strategic in the quotes she selected,” said Lynn Marsden-Atlass in 2018, then-curator of the University of Pennsylvania Art Collection. “The language is realistic and thoughtful, reflecting women’s time at Penn. Holzer did not sugarcoat their experience.”

Art Matters” is a series in Penn Today highlighting the many works of fine art on and around Penn’s campus.

Three shots of Jenny Holzer’s 125 Years installation on Penn’s campus.