James Turrell is an installation artist primarily known for his work with light and space. In his statement, Mapping Spaces, 1987, Turrell explains his fascination with light and how it interacts with space. In his installations, Turrell wants the viewer to “confront that space and plumb it.”(575) Turrell’s installation pieces are mind-boggling and fascinating, to say the least. His works are all about light and how that light interacts with the space it is in.
What makes Turrell’s art so fascinating is that as you move in the space, your perception of what you see changes. Essentially, no two people see the same thing. Turrell uses light as “not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.” (574) Turrell believes that as you explore through space you create and give the space its own sentience. You give the space its own life and reason to exist. Turrell likes to use spaces that really serve no purpose. He likes to use spaces that simply just exist.
Turrell’s installation at Roden Crater, arguably his most well known work, is a constant work in progress. Turrell has spent decades moving earth to create apertures in attempts to focus light into excavated rooms from celestial bodies such as stars and planets. Although, incomplete, there is no expected completion date for this installation. In fact, the last time a completion date was discussed was in 2011. The only people allowed on the property are the artist and his close friends. However, people have been able to sneak onto the property.
Turrell’s work seems like a giant science experiment crossbred through photography and astronomy. However, Turrell claims his work is not a scientific demonstration, but instead it is a demonstration on perspective and how humans perceive and interact with light. However, that is not to say that Turrell’s work does not correlate to science. Turrell pushes the boundaries of art to pose questions that he hopes science can answer.