Holzer was born on July 29, 1950, in Gallipolis, Ohio. After attending high school in Ohio and Florida, she enrolled in Duke University’s liberal arts program in 1968 and later attended the University of Chicago from 1970 to 1971. In 1972, Holzer completed her undergraduate work at Ohio University, Athens, with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. In 1975, she entered the master of fine arts program at the Rhode Island School of Design. During her MFA studies, Holzer moved to New York City to participate in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, where she began her first series of public art texts. She completed her MFA in 1977.
Media employed in Holzer’s practice vary. Writing is programmed into electronic signs; printed on posters and t–shirts; carved in stone benches, floors, and sarcophagi; cast as bronze and aluminum plaques; or etched on silver. Further, her statements have appeared on billboards, movie marquees, automobiles, in news magazines, and on websites, as well as being projected onto facades, walls, water, and mountainsides. Holzer’s recent use of text ranges from silk-screened paintings of declassified government memoranda detailing prisoner abuse, to poetry and prose in a 65-foot wide wall of light in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, New York.
Holzer’s work has been shown in exhibitions worldwide, including Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland.