Another room makes the frame element and its contents change color over time. The viewer enters a well of light, approaching the far wall as a thing of both mystery and omnipresence. It conjures sci-fi tropes of fantastically intelligent alien life forms using technology beyond our ability to grasp as well as religious contexts where light becomes form and material suggesting the light at the end of the tunnel.
Some of Turrells most striking works are not strictly controlled indoor spaces at all but instead shine new light on something we experience everyday with little notice: the sky.
This piece, titled “Twilight Epiphany,” was built at Rice University in Houston. The 118-foot-square skyscape, which at once conceals and reveals the sky above, is meant to reflect in architecture the dual nature of light itself. “Light not only reveals, it also obscures,” the artist was quoted in an article in Architectural Record. Sunlight, when cast through the atmosphere obscures out view of the stars while constructing the curved blue architecture we call the sky.
This drawing down of the sky, making visually tangible the presence of light from above has been used in more that just Turrell’s artworks. The artist also designed the Live Oak Meeting House for the Society of Friends, a Quaker organization, creating a space to for contemplation.
The space greets the light as it is, not produced by humans, not photographed from a setting sun, just cast down from the ever present sky. This architectural intervention, limiting your view of the sky to a small square patch, brings you down to the present moment in a hurry. It is that limitation that lets you see, lets you concentrate, on the vast blue bubble we find ourselves in.
Whether it’s through art or spiritual contexts Turrells work asks us to settle in the present and experience light, that fundamental element of our universe, separate from its utilitarian existence. His works ask us just to see, allowing vision itself to become paramount while content recedes, and need nothing more than simple and profound light.