The pioneering American land artist Nancy Holt has died aged 75. Known for her large-scale land art and intimate film work, Holt came to prominence in the late 1960s. She had been enjoying a renewed interest in her work in recent years, with a series of exhibitions in the UK and America. In October 2013 she was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the International Sculpture Center at a ceremony in New York.

Holt is most famous for the piece, Sun Tunnels (1976), in Utah’s Great Basin Desert. The piece consists of four 22-ton concrete pipes, each measuring 18 feet, the pipes oriented towards the sunrises and sunsets of the winter and summer solstices.

Interviewed by The Telegraph in 2012, Holt described how, after finishing the piece, she spent days sleeping in a camper van recording the effects of light on the sculpture: “I would watch sunrises and sunsets and the stars at night, which were incredible – you could get lost in them. When you’re alone in the desert, you’re ageless, timeless. You start to lose a sense of being contained in your body.”

Commenting on Holt’s death, the art critic Waldemar Januszczak tweeted: ‘Few things in my life have given me more joy than trekking across Utah to see her Sun Tunnels. Go see.’

Holt also collaborated with other artists, most significantly her late husband, the land artist Robert Smithson who died in 1973. In the short film, Swamp (1971), Smithson can be heard guiding Holt through a marshy swampland, the camera continuing to roll until its film runs out.

The last film Holt was working on before she died was The Making of Amarillo Ramp (2013), originally filmed in the early 1970s. The film, currently showing at the Robert Smithson in Texas exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, chronicles the creation of Smithson’s only Texas earthwork.

In 2012, one of the last exhibition’s shown at London’s Haunch of Venison gallery before it closed was a Holt retrospective, the first major UK show looking back at her body of work. And in 2013, The Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, staged a show of Holt’s photographs and films.

Speaking to The Gallerist, American critic and curator Phyllis Tuchman said of Holt, who she had known since before Smithson’s death: “She was the nicest, kindest, warmest person imaginable.”