World-renowned light artist James Turrell combines art and science to create simple, luminous chambers which focus on the beauty of the ever-changing sky and speak to the souls of all who sit in them. These Skyspaces, rooms with an aperture in the ceiling through which light appears curiously closer, are commissioned around the globe and visited by contemporary art enthusiasts and those seeking quiet contemplation.
James Turrell’s Skyspace, Live Oak Meeting, Houston
Photo © Copyright by Florian Holzherr; used by permission.
The artist has donated a unique design for the Chestnut Hill Friends' new meetinghouse, where silent meditation and a tradition of welcoming people of all faiths will lend a fitting setting. Experiencing this transformative art at dawn and dusk will be a deeply personal and intensely communal encounter. Project advisor Ann Temkin, former Philadelphia Museum of Art curator now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, describes this project as “an historic opportunity,” as “great art can change lives.”
This Skyspace, which will be open to the public at regularly scheduled hours, is not only a gift to the Meeting but also a gift to the Chestnut Hill community, the City of Philadelphia and the region. We are very grateful to James Turrell, who is himself a Quaker, for his extraordinary generosity.
Project advisor Gail Harrity, Philadelphia Museum of Art president and chief operating officer, has this to say: “To have an installation by an artist of Turrell’s stature in Philadelphia will further bolster this city’s reputation as one of this nation’s great art venues. This (Skyspace) will be a place where people will want to go and just be – a place of quiet and calm. ”
Michael Verruto, vice chairman of Americans for the Arts and a local resident, considers the installation of a Skyspace in this leafy neighborhood in northwest Philadelphia to be “a major coup for Chestnut Hill and the greater Philadelphia community. It will be a treasure that will bring visitors to this area to experience his work.”
Turrell’s gift of a Skyspace to Houston’s Live Oak Friends Meeting in 2001 has attracted visitors from around the world. Indeed, it was listed by The Texas Monthly on its “Bucket List” of things to see and do in Texas before you die. After visiting the Houston meetinghouse, the Houston Chronicle art critic described “a glorious interior space that makes manifest the Quaker principles of simplicity, silence and the ‘light within.’ The eyes cling to this skyward window, to the clouds and occasional bird in flight that pass across it, but especially to the light,” she wrote. “At sundown, light shifts softly from porcelain transparency to silken cobalt blue and velvet black. Eyes turn inward, and a hush descends. The Skyspace transforms the spare, white meeting room into a luminous chamber, a metaphor for the body and soul.”
Deershelter Skyspace in Yorkshire, UK
Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England is home to a Skyspace built into an existing structure – a deershelter – that is partially underground. Click the picture below to see a short film that describes the experience of visitors to the Skyspace.
Click the image above to see a short film showing a Skyspace in a sculpture park in Yorkshire, UK.
Skyspace in Australia
The National Gallery of Australia installed a James Turrell Skyspace, Within without 2010, as part of its permanent collection. The NGA web site features a video about the work. Click the picture below to open the National Gallery of Australia site in a new window. On that page, scroll to the bottom to watch the video.