Monday, November 5, 2007
Swimming to Turrell
A week ago Sunday, I was my father’s guest at a party at the Napa home of art collectors Nora and Norman Stone. They were celebrating the completion of James Turrell’s Stone Sky – an installation of two of his signature sky ceilings, one of which hovers in the middle of their infinity pool, encased inside the cube (pictured here on the left) that can only be reached by swimming under water. The Stones graciously provided paper bathing suits for their guests, yet only a few ventured into the warm water and dove under the edges of this box into the magically lit space inside. A perfect square opening in the ceiling revealed the sky, but unlike any sky I had ever seen. Somehow Turrell combines special lighting and optics to create an ever-changing colorfield. The occasional bird or insects flying above reminded one that it was the real sky up there, and yet the range of color was unusually magnificent – pale greens, purples, deep indigo, and even orange. The light had a strange, almost spiritual eminence. The process of getting wet, crossing the length of the pool, and diving under into the unknown enhanced the sense of pilgrimage or transformation of one’s reality. As an artist who is an object-maker, I have deep respect for this artist who is an experience-maker. The memory of it will linger with me for a long time.