Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts from the ‘Sculpture’ category

James Turrell: Master of light.  Player of perceptions. Orchestrator of aesthetic experience. Opening three major shows this June at the GuggenheimLACMA , and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Turrell is the art event of the summer.

Never seen his work? Perhaps because many of his installations are hidden away – often in smaller museums and private homes around the world. He’s especially known for designing Skyspaces – a viewing area open to the elements. Turrell orchestrates an experience for the viewer with the use of computerized lights. The artist takes the viewer on a sensory journey – utterly transforming the viewer’s perception of color and depth based on a subtle and masterful manipulation of light.

This is what I experienced recently at The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida – home of Turrell’s Skypace, Joseph’s Coat.” At thirty minutes before sunset, about two dozen people entered the Skyspace chamber and stretched out on the floor together. For an hour we stared at the hole in the ceiling. It went like this.

What I love most about Turrell’s work is the way he invites the viewer to participate and interact with the work. In fact, his works are nothing without our sensory perception. He asks the viewer to surrender to time. Surrender to the elements. And also to give up our endless meaning-making. When we do this, we receive a rare gift of pure aesthetic appreciation.

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Great Duck Island, Maine. Wild roses. Black Guillemots and Leach’s Storm-petrels. Stars. Tides. Granite cliffs. Solitude. 

I wanted to write a poem. Sometimes when I want to write a poem, I need some momentum – so I asked a friend for a word.

I was working with the word palimpsest.

- writing material used more than once, with faint traces of earlier writing present
- material having layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface
- from palimpestos – scratched or scraped again (as in the days of parchment and wax coated tablets)

I walked the island with the mantra: again, I scrape. I poured coffee: again, I scrape. I woke to the sound of the tide: again, I scrape.

The unwritten “palimpsest”poem was tormenting me.

One place kept drawing me in. It had to do with the tidal flow around a certain rock outcropping.

To get to there, I had to walk through a pathway of wild roses. The air on this path was sweet, sensual, feminine, in contrast to the spikier scent of seaweed just a few steps away.

The tide eventually ebbed exposing dozens of tidal pools. Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s vibrant dandelion piece in which he floated dandelion heads in a puddle of water beside a river (Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides Working With Time), I began to collect rose petals.

I realized that I was making an environmental poem that the tide would scrape away.

The color was a shock. 

Alien to this place.

Yet also familiar.

A kind of testimony to the island.

To things that rise and fall.

Roses and rocks. At first glance they seem opposed. The delicate and the solid.

Yet water wears away petals and stones alike. Again, it scrapes.


This was a day about seeing space and form in a new way. I spent the day at Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley, a 500-acre open air museum full of dramatic spaces for viewing sculptures.

Often when we view art – the objects become the focus of our perception. At Storm King, our perception shifts and we are able to experience the objects as the frames and anchors for space. It works both ways: space clarifies form and form creates declinations that clarify space. There’s the space that surrounds and the space in between.

Here space isn’t negative or dead. Instead, it takes on a dynamic quality that enhances the viewer’s engagement with the sculptures. Space plays a variety of roles at times acting as a colorist, at times providing tension, at times anchoring our gaze, at times unsettling us.

This museum is a new favorite.

Alexander Calder, Five Swords

Isamu Noguchi, Momo Taro

Alyson Shotz, Mirror Fence

Andy Goldsworthy, Storm King Wall

Andy Goldsworthy, Storm King Wall

Alexander Calder, The Arch

Richard Serra, Schunnemunk Fork