James Turrell For Older Children

silhouette of building facade

The Color Inside


James Turrell

American, born 1943

Subject: Light

Write a poem inspired by the Skyspace

Materials: Paper, writing utensil

Vocabulary: Medium, optical illusion, abstract


James Turrell uses light as his artistic medium the same way a sculptor uses clay to express their ideas. In the Skyspace he uses lights to color the walls during sunrise and sunset. The light program changes the way our eyes see the natural skylight coming through the opening in the roof, creating an optical illusion. During the day the shifting sky and changing natural light activates the space in new ways.

One of James Turrell’s favorite hobbies is to fly planes. He is inspired by the different light he can see while in the sky and often says, “My airplane is my studio.” Using light to call attention to the way we see, Turrell creates abstract works of art.


How does the sky look when you are in a plane compared to on the ground?

How does changing natural light affect your mood?

How do you feel when it is sunny compared to when it is cloudy or dark?

How do we use light to change our mood?

Think about lights we use during holidays or celebrations.


Write a Haiku poem inspired by light in the Skyspace. Describe the light you see in the Skyspace and the emotions it makes you feel. A Haiku is a short, three-line poem consisting of 17 syllables, as broken down below.

Line 1: 5 syllables

Line 2: 7 syllables

Line 3: 5 syllables


Medium – the material used by an artist such as paint or clay

Optical illusion – a trick that makes one see something that is not actually as it seems

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