“I’m known as a light artist. But rather than be known as someone who depicted light, or painted light in some way, I wanted to have the work be light.” —James Turrell
James Turrell manipulates light for a living.
Turrell is an artist famous for his installations that deal with light and perception. For the past five decades he has been creating structures and artworks that make viewers think about the way they experience space and reality itself.
I first encountered his work, Meeting, at the art space PS1 in Brooklyn. I remember on a cold winter day going into a room on the top floor and being surprised that the ceiling was missing and thus, the room was open to the sky. I remember sitting on a bench and watching the sky darken as day turned to night.
Turrell is also a Quaker, and when the Quaker meeting in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood decided to build a new meetinghouse from the ground up, they tapped Turrell to design a Skyspace for the structure. I had the pleasure of photographing the building shortly before it opened to the public. E. Allen Reeves, a long time client built the new meetinghouse.
The Skyspace is an aperture in the roof of the meetinghouse that slides back to reveal the sky above. A series of lights around the ceiling further manipulate the light to create different moods and feelings.
I have attended Quaker meetings at a meetinghouse near my home, in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Much of the meeting is set aside for quiet meditation. After spending just a few minutes inside Chestnut Hill’s new space, I could understand how Turrell’s vision of a space open to the sky and the elements becomes an inextricable part of the experience itself.
While Turrell makes art from light, Philips Lighting takes a scientific approach to light. For alternate take on light, read my post, Is This a Set for a Devo Video?