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That Fellow Dessy As I said, this came to mind again just a few weeks ago as I stood in a darkened room in the Academy Art Museum in Easton. My wife and I had just felt our way carefully along a pitch-black corridor between the wall and a newly built partition running almost the length of the Lederer Gallery. We had come there to see, for our first time ever, one of James Turrell’s lightworks ~ I don’t know what else to call them ~ in the f lesh, as it were. Images in books or on the computer screen give you the idea of what he creates, but not the feel, and certainly not the sensation. The distinction is akin to seeing the written score of a Bach fugue and actually hearing it played on an organ in a great hall. I’m not going to spoil the effect for you. Go see it for yourself. But I can tell you a bit about my experience. When seeing a completely unknown painting, a work you never knew existed until that moment, it is still recognizable as a painting, however unfamiliar the subject matter or technique. After all, to “recognize” something means to “re-know it,” to know it again. Something that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, therefore, cannot be recognized. It can only be experienced. Mind you, you don’t get that

James Turrell feeling right away as you come out from behind the partition. You see something “attractive” hanging on the far wall. That makes perfect sense, for this is an art gallery. It is bright and beautiful and, as it is too far away to make out, it draws you closer. (You’re pretty much on your own in there, as they never allow more than six persons into the gallery at the same time.) But here’s the curious thing ~ and Turrell has planned this to a nicety. If you take a few steps forward and stop to allow your eyes to adjust to the new volume of light they are receiving and to the expanded size of the object in your field of vision, and do that repeat-


July 2013 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times July 2013

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