Last sunday I went to Philadelphia to experience artist James Turrell’s new skyspace at the Chestnut Hill Quaker meeting house. Each sunday, at sunset, the roof slides back to reveal a simple square of sky; a sort of window to the heavens. Visitors are invited to lie on the floor or on beautiful cedar benches and watch the twilight show (enhanced by lights that wash the walls of the room). As I lay snuggled in a blanket, I saw calligraphic whisps of cloud in a sepia toned sky; a jeweled azure square that was as deep and teeming with reflections as a swimming pool; ‘drops of rain’ plopping upwards into the sky, a purple swirl like a puff of smoke, and the magic of a simple blue sky with clouds shaped like faces tumbling across it.
All four of us who went saw something completely different. I guess we all experience things differently all the time, but we aren’t so keenly aware of the gap. At least I am not. Each of us was enchanted by what we saw. To me it felt like I was experiencing the wonderment of the universe. James Turrell, talking at the opening of his art work, recalled his grandmother telling him that going to a Quaker meeting house was all about ‘going in to greet the light’. That’s exactly what we did; and we met it in all its glory.