‘Go Inside to Find That Light Within’: Watch Artist James Turrell Explain How He Finds Inspiration in Quaker Spirituality

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

James Turrell. Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for LACMA.

Nearly hidden from view and surrounded almost entirely by the Pike National Forest is the small town of Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, population 875. Situated at an altitude of 7,800 feet, the town has just joined an elite group of sites around the world to host a permanent “Skyspace” by pioneering artist James Turrell.

The journey to the Green Mountain Falls Skyspace begins with a hike via two different trailheads that lead visitors directly to the 18-foot-tall box-like structure, which is built into the side of the Red Butte Mountain overlooking the town below. Inside, the marble cube is outfitted with smooth wooden benches lining the bare white walls, where visitors are encouraged to sit in silence and experience Turrell’s work.

Colored lights, shifting between neon pink, blue, purple, yellow, and orange, bathe the walls and visitors. The projection is timed to the sunset, which can be viewed through an open chamber in the ceiling. The work is one of very few “Skyspaces” with a retractable roof that keeps it safe during inclement weather and allows for the artist to engineer light shows regardless of the position of the sun. 

James Turrell, Green Mountain Falls Skyspace (2022). Photo by Jeff Kearney/TDC Photography, courtesy of Green Box, ©James Turrell.

James Turrell, Green Mountain Falls Skyspace (2022). Photo by Jeff Kearney/TDC Photography, courtesy of Green Box, © James Turrell.

In an exclusive interview filmed back in 2001, Turrell spoke to Art21 about his quest to harness light, which is informed in large part by visiting Quaker meetinghouses at a young age. In the interview, the artist recalls asking his grandmother what they were meant to do inside the meetinghouse, to which she replied: “We’re going inside to greet the light.” That notion, he says, “to go inside to find that light within, literally as well as figuratively,” has been part of his artistic quest ever since. 

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Art in the Twenty-First Century, below. Detailed ticketing information for the Green Mountain Falls Skyspace is available at Green Box Arts.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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