This month, Crystal Bridges is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the installation of James Turrell’s Skyspace: The Way of Color on the museum’s grounds. The artwork is architecturally outstanding and an inviting space that offers a light show at both dusk and dawn. In celebration of this momentous occasion, get to know a little about the artist James Turrell and take a look back on the installation of The Way of Color at Crystal Bridges.
James Turrell has quite the rap sheet: he is a licensed pilot, world-renowned artist, pioneer of the Light and Space art movement, and cultural influence who has been producing art since the 1960s. His work has been the focus of hundreds of exhibitions and appears in numerous museum collections around the world, such as the Guggenheim Museum (NYC), the Tate Modern (London), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), the Welsh National Museum of Art (Cardiff), and the Centre for International Light Art (Unna, Germany).
Turrell was born in Los Angeles and his family practiced the Quaker religion. It’s possible that this religious upbringing had an impact on Turrell’s work, as referenced in the quote below.
“I was maybe 5 or 6, and my grandmother would begin sitting me in the Quaker meeting house,” said Turrell. “I asked my grandmother, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ and she said, ‘Just wait, we’re going inside to greet the light.’ I liked that—this idea to go inside to find that light within, literally as well as figuratively.” – James Turrell
After developing a love of art history in college, he found a studio space in an abandoned Santa Monica hotel where he would explore and manipulate light through the use of architecture, natural light, and projected light. He presented his first solo exhibition of “projection pieces” in 1967, beginning his journey to become one the most well-known studio artists of the twenty-first century.
Turrell’s Skyspaces are freestanding, concrete structures clad in stone that manipulate light coming through an ocular opening on the ceiling. Bench seating is offered for visitors inside, and The Way of Color at Crystal Bridges was the first Skyspace to feature LED lighting. All of these features come together for viewers to experience the sky with its changing effects of color, light, and mood in new and different perspectives.
In the midst of celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Skyspace: The Way of Color at Crystal Bridges, Scott Eccleston, the museum’s director of operations and Skyspace project manager, reflected on the artwork’s installation process.
When the museum decided to purchase a Skyspace, the product came in the form of a few pieces of paper with concepts on them. Eccleston and his team had to hire an architect to build the construction plan. From there, Eccleston jokes that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. But after several trials and tribulations, James Turrell came to look at the finished product at Crystal Bridges and said, “This is the piece that I will measure against all future projects.”
Crystal Bridges has welcomed visitors from all over the world to experience art and to sit in James Turrell’s The Way of Color. Every single day at dawn and dusk, visitors can experience the wonder of the Skyspace in a display of light and color. The LED lights illuminate the dome’s interior, automatically corresponding to changes in the sky to enhance the experience.
As the lighting sequence runs its course through the color spectrum, the framed glimpse of morning or evening sky from the sculpture’s opening seems to shift suddenly and dramatically in hue. This effect is called “celestial vaulting,” which is created when the sky is viewed without a visible horizon line. The museum looks forward to sharing this truly one-of-a-kind sculpture with many more guests for years and decades to come.
Conversation » Building Skyspace
Wednesday, October 9, 6 to 7 pm
Want to hear more about the story of Skyspace’s construction? Join us in the Great Hall this evening as director of operations Scott Eccleston recounts his journey with The Way of Color. Free, no registration required.
Skyspace Nights » Star Party + Skyspace Anniversary
Wednesday, October 9, 8 to 9:30 pm
After the talk, take a walk down the path to Skyspace and join us for a Star Party! Look through telescopes, chat with astronomers from Sugar Creek Astrological Society, and engage with activities inspired by the night sky. Free, no registration required.