As you approach The University of Texas at Austin’s Student Activity Center, you are immediately taken by its modern exterior – the great windows that cover the building allow light to stream through from within at any hour of the day or night. This gathering place for students, faculty, and members of the Austin public is always bustling. It then comes as no surprise that in 2008, when plans for the Student Activity Center were first under way, the students at The University of Texas requested a “reflection room” of sorts.
Andrée Bober – the founding director of Landmarks (the university’s public art program) – has been following the work of James Turrell closely for twenty years. She knew an addition of one of the artist’s Skyspace installations would be the perfect compliment to the center; one that would draw the public’s attention, but also provide the students and faculty with the serene reflection room they requested.
Each of Turrell’s Skyspaces are totally unique, in that they are not designed to mimick any other Skyspace that has come before it. Each installation is an experience in and of itself, and one you will not likely forget.
The recently opened Skyspace at the University of Texas, named The Color Inside, sits unassumingly on the roof of the Student Activity Center. It is designed so twenty-five people may sit comfortably within the space and enjoy the installation in an intimate setting.
Walking through the doorway (at a recent preview event) I knew I was about to experience something remarkable. The Color Inside wastes no time with paltry introductions.
The Skyspace is designed so twenty-five people may sit comfortably within the space and enjoy the installation in an intimate setting.
The interior’s design is sleek and simplistic; the walls and floors, a deep, slate grey, and the ceiling, a crisp, cool white. As I took my seat, I slowly leaned back, where a perfectly angled wall met my body. I was then free to comfortably shift my gaze toward the center of the room’s ceiling.
The view of the sky…suddenly becomes a framed piece of art.
The view of the sky, as framed by the oculus, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen; the sky we gaze upon every day suddenly becomes a framed piece of art, changing dramatically with the sequences of the rising and setting sun. In naming The Color Inside, Turrell said, “I was thinking about what you see inside, and what the sky holds within it that we don’t see the possibility of in our regular life.” As you are sitting inside of the skyspace, the LED lights change slowly and ever so subtly, drawing out different colors of the sky based on the variances in the quality of light that occur during sunrise and sunset.
At the conclusion of the light show, there was silence – a hushed applause followed by a hum of voices singing the installations’ praises.
As I stood and gathered my thoughts, I quickly browsed through the gallery of photos I had taken over the course of the hour-long light show. Though each of the photos I took certainly varied from one to the next, they did not even begin to encompass the evocative aspects of the experience I had within the Skyspace. The Color Inside is simply an installation you must experience yourself.
Make a reservation and spend an hour of your day in a meditative state, taking in James Turrell’s brilliant installation. It will make you appreciate the wonders of the sky that are so often overlooked amidst the clamor of our chaotic lives.
All photos by Florian Holzherr courtesy of Landmarks
The Color Inside
A Skyspace by James Turrell
2201 Speedway at 22nd Street
Austin, Texas 78712