Art world links which caught my eye…
A view of the sky from inside the volcano
In early 2001, shortly after I moved to Arizona, I was fortunate enough to see a James Turrell exhibit at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Turrell creates incredible illusions through precision architecture and the manipulation of light. The strange effects he conjures through these mediums have to be experienced in person. Photos do not do justice to the impact of the environments he designs.
The show was a major art event in Arizona. Turrell was installing one of his Skyspaces at the museum, and had many other pieces on display. I remember one where I entered a plain white room which had an enormous blue rectangular painting hanging on the opposite wall. I had to draw closer to realize I was not seeing a flat surface of a painting at all. It was a hole in the wall; I was looking through that opening into another room illuminated by a blue glow. Turrell managed to make a void seem like a solid. Another room seemed to be full of a whitish-lavender mist. However, there was nothing there, but light.
Another piece was a dome you had to lay inside of. It projected the most vivid, gradually shifting colors all around you. It felt like they were bypassing my eyes, and laying directly on my brain. It was stunning.
The great art critic Robert Hughes came and gave a lively lecture I attended. He conjectured on Turrell’s Quaker upbringing as influential on his art; holiness expressed in sunlight pouring through plain glass windows. But the best topic of the talk was on Turrell’s Roden Crater-an artwork designed to last thousands of years.
Since the 1970s, Turrell has been sculpting a two mile wide extinct volcano in northern Arizona into a giant combination artwork, observatory and monument. Smithsonian Magazine recently gave an update on his progress:
The volcano is different. It is Turrell’s most ambitious project, but also his most personal. He has spent 45 years designing a series of tunnels and chambers inside to capture celestial light. Yet Turrell has rarely allowed anyone to visit the work in progress. Known as Roden Crater, it stands 580 feet tall and nearly two miles wide. One of the tunnels that Turrell has completed is 854 feet long. When the moon passes overhead, its light streams down the tunnel, refracting through a six-foot-diameter lens and projecting an image of the moon onto an eight-foot-high disk of white marble below. The work is built to align most perfectly during the Major Lunar Standstill every 18.61 years. The next occurrence will be in April 2025. To calculate the alignment, Turrell worked closely with astronomers and astrophysicists. Because the universe is expanding, he must account for imperceptible changes in the geometry of the galaxy. He has designed the tunnel, like other features of the crater, to be most precise in about 2,000 years. Turrell’s friends sometimes joke that’s also when he’ll finish the project.
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