James Turrell For Adolescents

silhouette of building facade

The Color Inside


James Turrell

American, born 1943

Subject: Spirituality in art

Reflect on spiritual works of art through writing

Materials: Paper, pencil

Vocabulary: Abstract, perception, Quaker


James Turrell is an artist whose medium is light. He studied perceptual psychology and art in college and also has interests in aviation, geometry, and astronomy. Sometimes disorienting, his works heighten our perception by using a combination of natural and artificial light. Rooted in the traditions of his Quaker upbringing, Turrell invites visitors to “go inside and greet the light.”

Turrell is well known for his Skyspaces—enclosures that viewers can enter, sit in, and look up to observe the sky through an opening in the ceiling called an oculus. Though the Skyspace is not affiliated with any religion, it serves as a quiet, contemplative place for people to gather, similar to a church or other sacred space.


What makes you feel spiritual?

What makes a place feel spiritual?

What are other examples of works of art that deal with spirituality you have seen?

How do other artists address spirituality in their art?


Option 1: Write about your experience visiting the Skyspace or another experience you’ve had with a work of art that relates to spirituality. Identify specific elements of the art that makes you feel spiritual and explain why.

Option 2: Sketch a design for a space that would inspire your spirituality. Write about why you included specific elements of the design.


Abstract – art that is not realistic and uses shapes, forms, colors, and textures

Perception – the way we become aware of things through our senses

Quaker – a religious group devoted to peaceful principles

Oculus – circular opening in a ceiling or wall