Friday, December 1, 2023

Art and Technology Challenge Perceptions of Sky at Ringling Museum

Skyspace Installation at Pomona College, CA. Courtesy Rice University

Sarasota, FL, USA – On December 22nd, the Winter Solstice, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art opened its Skyspace, created by the internationally renowned artist, James Turrell. At more than 3,000 sq. ft. it is the largest Skyspace yet created, featuring a 24 ft. square aperture in the canopy 35 ft. above and a central colonnade composed of columns 20 ft. high. Located in the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation Courtyard of the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing of the Ringling Museum of Art, this is the only Skyspace in Florida and one of only two public Skyspaces on the East Coast.

“The Skyspace created by James Turrell is one of the most important acquisitions in the Ringling Museum’s history,” said Steven High, executive director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “It changes all of your notions of the museum experience, placing you in what feels like your own private world. In today’s digital age, where we are bombarded with emails, tweets, photos and Facebook messages, James Turrell’s Skyspace transports us to a contemplative place where we feel a deepened connection to the very essence of our being and the environment.”

Sitting on precisely angled benches constructed of reclaimed cypress, the viewer’s attention is subtly lifted to the 24 foot square aperture in the center of the canopy. So precise is the ‘razor edge’ of the aperture that the sky overhead becomes, in Turrell’s words a, “plane in the sky.” Through the use of LED, synchronized with the changing seasons, James Turrell is able to manipulate the viewer’s optical response to the sky as seen through the aperture. At dawn or dusk, a program of changing colored light, bathing the interior of the space, shifts the viewer’s perception of the sky from space, to void, to “solid” as the artist “changes” the color of the sky. The Skyspace seats 56 people and also includes creeping jasmine and fig so that over time it will become a lush, tropical environment mirroring its Florida locale.

“It is symbolic that as 2011 comes to a close, the 100 year anniversary of John and Mable purchasing property on what are today the grounds of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, that their Museum houses the work of one of the leading artists of the 21st century, to be enjoyed and studied by this and future generations,” added High. 

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Born in Los Angeles, James Turrell is one of the most influential contemporary artists at work today. James Turrell was born in 1943 in Los Angeles. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in experimental psychology at Pomona College at Claremont, California in 1965, followed by a Master’s degree in Art from Claremont Graduate School in 1973. His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Tate Modern, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Israel Museum Jerusalem. The James Turrell Museum opened in Colomé, Argentina in 2009. His solo exhibitions include Stedlijk Museum (1976); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1980); Israel Museum (1982); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984); MAK, Vienna (1998-1999); Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2002-2003); and “The Wolfsburg Project” (2009-2010), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany. The concept of Skyspaces is closely connected to the creation of the Roden Crater Project in the Arizona desert. Since 1974, Turrell has been converting the Roden Crater – an extinct volcano on the edge of the Painted Desert, near Flagstaff, where Turrell has lived since 1979 – into an observatory. Visitors, students and faculty are invited to browse books about James Turrell’s work in The Ringling Museum of Art Library, located in the Johnson-Blalock Education Center on the Ringling estate.

The Skyspace is the foundation for the Ringling’s Art of Our Time initiative, which reflects the Museum’s efforts to promote understanding of and appreciation for the contemporary visual and performing arts by showcasing works from artists, such as James Turrell, that are profoundly influencing our culture. The Skyspace was made possible through the generous support of Peter and Pam Vogt, Dick and Betty Nimtz and Bev Koski and her late husband Bob Koski.


The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University, is one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation.  It preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling, educating and enabling a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art; Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling historic mansion; the Circus Museums; the Original Asolo Theater; and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay.

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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