Yesterday I began reading the second chapter of SUBLIME and felt refreshed, instantly grateful that I read three novels before digging into more art theory. Transcendence is a pretty short chapter, so I'll focus on one essay that I loved. Probably because I love James Turrell and have secret fantasies of flying to Flagstaff Arizona to visit that beautiful crater in the desert. Mostly, this chapter is about that exact moment when our souls escape physicality and reach for the void of spiritual transcendence.
Lynn M. Herbert
Spirit and Light and the Immensity Within//1998
Leaving our physical realms behind, Herbert starts this essay by talking about light and its power to bring us to our knees. We take it for granted most of the time but, "Not only does it reveal what is around us, it also makes known that which is inside us." Herbert then continues by introducing Turrell whose sole medium has been light since the 1960's. She emphasizes Turrell's, "particular gift in affording us the opportunity to have a unique and intimate experience with light and to feel its transcendent power." Our experience with Turrell's work becomes extremely personal and for many, leads to thoughts about spirituality and religion. Not to get too caught up in religion, Herbert quotes a former priest who makes the point,"one doesn't get 'religion' in a church anymore than one gets 'education' at a university." I liked this point because it opens the door to suggest that spiritually is manifested in so many other places. Herbert gives a brief explanation of Turrell's upbringing and his constant relationship with light and brings us to the 60's where Turrell was able to work alongside arist Robert Irwin with scientist Dr. Edward Wortz. After this Turrell created immaterial pieces out of light that tied him to minimalism, yet referenced the color of artists like Mark Rothko. Turrell found Roden crater, an extinct volcano in north of Flagstaff Arizona, where you feel geological time and the sky is theatrical and vivid. "Sunrises and sunsets present ranges of color unimaginable to the uninitiated.." I have yet to forget the kind of intensity of color that exists in this part of the South West, hues are more saturated, and the lack of cloud cover allows the deepest of blue to penetrate the surrounding landscape in a heavy way. Herbert describes the work that Turrell has made at the crater,
"Emerging from tunnels and chambers to the rim of the crater, one will experience a phenomenon called 'celestial vaulting' in which the eye sees the sky as a dome rather than a flat expanse. With this vision of the heavens embracing one overhead, the feeling is very much as if one were standing on the edge of the earth, close to the sky."
Turrell speaks of the crater's ability to connect time in a vast way. He states that there are stars that are billions of years old, and there is starlight that is very recent, perhaps only 20 light years old, and that mixing this light of different ages speaks of its time. Herbert ends this essay on Turrell's ability to create a transcendent experience in the simplest of ways, that draws our attention to the immensity within ourselves. "He allows us to look at light in such a way that we can see into ourselves through to the universe beyond..."