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“Skyspace” by James Turrell Essay

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Updated: Jan 11th, 2022

Contemporary art is so unpredictable and outstanding in all its expressions that people tend to get extremely overwhelmed with emotions aroused by prolific artists. As such, one of the greatest and stunning contemporary installations is called Skyspace by James Turrell at Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. Created by the space and light artist, this is one of those exhibitions that make you rethink your being and understanding of the environment. James began his series of Skyspaces in the 1970s and they have not lost the demand until today. Significantly, Turrell is a Quaker who designed a Live Oak Meeting House and made a hole in a roof through which the light transcended. This had a very religious implication. As such, the Skyspaces represent the recreation of this very room. The installation called Meeting reflects the way the room looked for real.

James’ Skyspace Light Reign is magnificent. The installation looks like an oval room with a hole in the ceiling through which you can see a beautiful blue Seattle sky. The perimeter-type bench is a wonderful installation for the visitors to sit and look up at the sky. If it is an evening that you are visiting the gallery, the impression will be the best as well because they have specially installed LED lights embedded in glass panels to showcase a wonderful exterior, though they do not open the top of the roof for real at night. It has served as a space for many meditations, and audio sessions, like Steve Roden’s. This is a splendid art piece and it has eventually become an integral part of the museum’s architecture.

Remarkably, the visitors are likely to enjoy the installation in various ways because of the changing seasons. Moreover, they are encouraged to come in and have a sit on the bench during different weather conditions. The views are given different meanings in this case since the sky is observed in different colors every time and, besides, the observer’s mood and inner feelings intertwine with the light perception. So, every visitor has his/her impression of the Light Reign.

Yet, Skyspace has more in it than you can possibly imagine. Once you are in the oval room, try lying on the bench rather than sitting. This gives that remarkable illusion of the dome. If you look at the sky long enough, your eyes start seeing a perceptual shift that is called “celestial vaulting”(Oakes 171). This is a very interesting feeling when you percept the heavens in a little different way. You watch the clouds unravel and start thinking about how this life is impermanent. Moreover, the actual illusion to the eyes inside of the room makes you recognize the colors of the sky better once you step out of the installation.

Interestingly enough, many people think that what James does is take visitors back to the Stone Age. This is a dual explanation that cuts both ways. Once a person is inside the installation, he/she understands how beautiful and stunning nature actually is. However, if we believe that taking us back to the Stone Age is a bad intention of the light artists’ work, then we have to refuse all contemporary art as it is the one to lead James to such inventions.

In a word, Skyspace is splendid and a really outstanding piece of art. Seattle boasts one of those and I am fiercely loyal to the thought that Skyspace is a vision of the future by a romantic artist James Turrell.

Works Cited

Oakes, Baile. Sculpting with the Environment: A Natural Dialogue (Landscape Architecture). New York: Wiley, 1995. Print.

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