In 1994, I went on a quest – a trip to New Mexico in search of Agnes Martin, whose work had had a huge impact on myself and my relationship with my work. On the way, seeing as we were in the right part of the vast USA, it was kind of rude not to at least attempt to see James Turrell’s massive Roden Crater project – a resculpting of a volcano on land in Arizona.
I’d read about it, seen his plans, elevations and sketches of it in his ‘Lightworks’ show at the Hayward Gallery in London and now, here we were on Route 66, just on the turnoff for the Grand Canyon, and according to our map, very close to Turrell’s huge artwork in progress… I thought there would be signs at least, but, running a bit (few years) behind schedule, the crater was nowhere near being opened to public view. Disappointed – I mean, who knows when we’d be back in the vicinity, and having come all the way from Europe – we stepped over the fence and took a little stroll around, not on the volcano itself, just a little closer to it.
Things have changed a bit since then and though I’d love to visit again, I’d respect James Turrell’s own request that people respect the fact that currently the site is not open for visitors. “It’s an unfinished work of art under construction”. He continues to work on the Roden Crater to this day – it’s literally a monumental project that he’s been sculpting since 1972 – and as he says “no one has been more patient than I have”.
Looking back though, I loved that day and writing this blog has rekindled that feeling of pure excitement of being so close to something so wonderful as an artist in communion with something so much bigger than themselves – in Turrell’s case, something that reframes the sky and be seen from space. On a spiritual level too, this project is huge and full of wonder in so many ways. It touches history, architecture, landscape, sacred space, art, culture, storytelling, anthropology, myth, labyrinths, light, walking, meditation… It touches the soul.
If you are able to donate, you can support him to keep working on this project – become a Friend of the Roden Crater.
You can also watch several films about his work on James Turrell’s website, plus you can explore his cartographic timeline where you can see where in the world his other beautiful lightworks have been installed. There are many outside the USA, including the UK, Europe and Japan. JamesTurrell.com
He’s also featured in this lovely PBS film “Art 21: Art & Spirituality”
And if you feel inspired to find out more, see over 50 of his works, read exclusive articles and explore related artists too, visit Artsy’s James Turrell page.