Skip to content

Light in New York: We are Children of Mark Rothko and James Turrell

James Turrell's light

James Turrell’s light

Memories of New York in October run through my head, flashes of light fold time, origami stars. The darkness of the cemetery lies naked next to the candy-orange glow of the wind-up flats. Of course it would be the sun’s brightest glimmer that reveals the darkest depths of our eyes. Then we are there like Rothko’s lights of painting, next to Turrell’s paintings of light.  Rothko’s paintings that either come crashing heavily upon us or push us to the edge, vertigo, falling. We stood as if before ancient church windows where the views move in a million gauzy layers from the thickest blacks down to the clearest blues or from the fluffiest pinks up to the brightest greens. Then Turrell’s lights convincing us we can walk through walls.  Solid blood-red beam stretching like a veil from edge to edge. White triangle fluorescent ghost floating in the corner. Turrell, who one day, watching a film in class at UCLA, realized that he didn’t care about the film at all, only the smoke swirling through the light of the film. His fall. The Fall of Creation: the scene of the crime; I see our brother in a moment of desperation writing “Light” on his illegitimate baby’s soft head. “Light” gives meaning to the father, to the child a place marker to fill, water-soluble expectations.  A halo of word, the father’s hand brings the child into this world, gives name, The Word, a violent act of limitation allows a beautiful becoming; the graffiti artist takes possession of another’s blank wall. Turning: the child is both an extension and a loss of parts of the father, origami baby.  The father marks and so turns this loss, of his time, his writerly self, into his text, and (folding from the other direction), his text is turned into his blood, so he remembers himselves, he sees the light.