Compare and contrast paper of ‘Forest in the Night’ by John Feodorov, and ‘The Sky space’ by James Turrell
Artwork is an expression mode either employed in invoking or depicted certain messages, feelings or relations to contemporary living. In this regard, art is a common accessory to religion and adorns most religious places as a symbol of the faith the adherents follow. Its use was widespread in the past, taking from the high renaissance period for instance where art was used in Christian temples depict various aspects of the Christian faith such as the last supper. Some of these artworks are highly regarded in modern times with the last supper, by Leonardo da Vinci for instance being one of the most famous artworks depicting religious themes. Contemporary artists use artwork liberally too in creating religiously relevant pieces of art. With the liberalization of religion, however, spirituality has taken a deeper meaning in modern times and this reflects in the pieces of art created under the spiritual tag. The pieces that evoke, or stimulate an individual to examine themselves in relation to how they co-exist with nature and other people, or raises awareness of such aspects is a spiritual piece since it relates with the inner being. This paper examines the artworks of two contemporary artists, John Feodorov and James Turrell. The individual artworks relating to these artists that shall be examined are the Forest at Night by Feodorov and Turrell’s Sky space.
Forest by night is an installation by Feodorov where he utilizes space to create an altar for individual trees cut down for clear cutting. The composition of the installation is twelve stylized tree stumps with bowls of saw dust placed at the foot of each stump. The saw dust bowls resemble, symbolize the life of the trees flowing from them following their cutting down. The stumps then have twelve arms each, which according to Feodorov’s Navajo descent hold religious significance. The arms of the trees are then adorned by everyday simple objects such as dolls and toys, which draw the parallel between our contemporary situations and our innate spirituality stemming from our tribal heritage. The installation utilizes the use of traditional totem poles for his tree stumps (Christina, par5). The totem poles are sacred in Native America. In terms of space, the installation uses space to create a sense of freedom. Each pole stands a good distance from the next, but close enough for all the poles to be considered under one installation; this indicates our individual identity as individuals, but a collective interconnectivity that unites us all as human beings. The poles are placed in a dark space with a single source of illumination coming from a lamp placed on a pedestal; the individual source of light acts to focus the concentration of an individual to the installation, by enabling focus on individual pole without being distracted. The lighting also helps bring out the cool color, with the brown and the dark patches helping recreate the forest theme the installation borrows. The cream poles reflect warmer colors indicating a diversity that is present in the collection of multiple individuals. The style of the artist is felt in the work through the incorporation of the plastic dolls in the totem poles arms. Feodorov is known to create spiritual works with light touches to them, thus, while the dolls combine the spiritual with the modern day-to-day objects, Feodorov reduces its seriousness.
The sky space by James Turrell is an installation on the roof of the Live Oak Friends Meeting House. The installation is an opening in the roof that allows light to inhabit the space in the meetinghouse (The Houston, par 6). The opening thus utilizes light as its main medium. The walls of the meetinghouse are painted in white and cream colors that reflect the light off differently depending on the intensity of the light informed by the time of the day, number of clouds in the sky and the season. The space between the roof and the walls all round the meetinghouse allows a thin stream of light that interacts with the light from the sky space, creating different feelings ranging from serene, pure, and sophisticated to calming. The interaction of these lights with the walls brings out a reflection of warm and cool expressions. Space is an integral aspect of the sky installation. The sky space was built specifically to bring out the artistic feel of a light that inhabits the space. By the light being directed to this space, it assumes an artistic identity of its own. The space, inhabited by light in the meetinghouse thus helps the believers congregating there to reflect on themselves as incorporated into a communion with an element watching over them thus represented by the light in the sky. The feel of the artist, James Turrell is present in this artwork. The sky spaces and the manipulation of light, in that it is the principal element in his work is his unique trademark.
Both works by James Turrell and John Feodorov are representative of the spiritual theme. Feodorov invites nature and its relatedness to our existence in harmonizing our spiritual background to our contemporary circumstances. James Turrell in a similar manner invites the use of nature, specifically light to, invoke a sense of spirituality by illuminating the various spiritual senses that different light portends. The twilight light for instance, in the meetinghouse, invokes a feeling of serenity and calmness by the soft shadows created by the reduced light. In conditions of improved light, the meetinghouse displays a warmer aura, which in turn invokes the feeling of unity with nature making its inhabitants one with nature. Bothe artists biography play a huge role in the specific works analyzed here. The meetinghouse by James Turrell is a Quaker house of meeting, of which Turrell is a lifelong member (The Houston, par 9). John Feodorov, on the other hand, is a man of mixed European-American and Navajo descent. His work displays his roots in both cultures(Christina, par4). The use of the totem poles is a sacred aspect of Navajo tradition, with the respect for nature being a key element of their existence. The creation of a shrine for trees, with each tree placed in the altar and shown to bleed indicates this respect for nature typical of Navajo. The use of the dolls indicates the consumerism of the contemporary American culture of which John is a part. The dolls also indicate a fusion between the traditional spiritual reality and the contemporary fusion of tradition with modernism.
Christina Mae. "Jeffers SPF 2010 Research Blog: Artist Entry-> John Feodorov." Jeffers SPF 2010 Research Blog. Jeffers, 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. http://jeffersspf2010research.blogspot.com/2010/10/artist-entry-john-feodorov.html
The Houston Press. "The Full James Turrell Experience in Houston." Art Attack. Houston press, 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. http://blogs.houstonpress.com/artattack/2013/06/james_turrell_houston_installa.php