Visual Arts

Arty Girl: Autumnal Equinox Viewing at James Turrell Skyspace at SMoCA

By Lilia Menconi

Turrell_KnightRise10%202.bmp For legal purposes, the longest caption ever: James Turrell"Knight Rise," 2001Venetian plaster, stainless steel, concrete, neonA "skyspace" commissioned by the Scottsdale Public Art Program for the Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Garden, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary ArtPhoto: Florian Holzherr

I have a daily early morning ritual that involves a mental negotiation, an annoying alarm and a snooze button. It goes like this:


“I’ll skip breakfast.”



“I won’t blow dry my bangs.”



“I’ll wear a tee shirt so I won’t have to shave my armpits.”

And so on.

I’m not a morning person. So much that, the only reason I ever see the sunrise is if I’ve been up all night. Last time, I was at an after-after party somewhere in central Phoenix. I laid in the front lawn and looked at the clouds, swatting little flies off me as my party partner was making out with some cute dude.

That was some time ago and while I still like to tie one on, those days of anxiety-attack inducing all nighters are hopefully long gone.

This Saturday, instead of powering through the night until sunrise in a drunken haze, I plan to go to bed early (sober) and wake up before the sun hits. Normally, this would equate to sheer torture. But I’m doing it. Because Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting an autumnal equinox viewing in one of my absolute favorite places in the Valley.

If you haven't been to the James Turrell Skyspace Knight Rise at SMoCA, go! Oh my God, go!

And, this Saturday, you can have your first time there be a little more spectacular (which, in all honesty, is tough to imagine) than just a mid-day visit.

Turrell’s elliptical room is the quietest, most soothing environment I've ever experienced. It's tucked away around SMoCA's side patio and as you walk in, time slows from a race to a saunter. The curvature of the walls is lined with a cement bench and enclosed with a tall ceiling. Mimicking the shape of the room is an oval opening in the center of the ceiling.

Noise is blocked out, the sky is visible but not overbearing, and no sharp corners can be found. The architecture reaches out and pulls you into a warm embrace. My heart rate slows just thinking about it.

James Turrell is an accomplished American installation artist. And after one visit to Knight Rise you’ll agree that the man is brilliant. His whole goal is to compel his viewers to take time with his work. And he succeeds. My friends and I have sat in that room in the dead of summer for close to an hour before, without any complaints about the heat. Similar skyscapes are at museums in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, Austria, England and Japan. We're luck to have him so close.

Last I checked, there were a handful of spots left for Saturday. So, if you’re interested, get on the ball for a reservation. But if you miss it this time around, no worries! You’ll have another chance in December.

But that means you might miss the glorious sight of me in the morning - probably with stubbly armpits.

Special Sunrise Skyspace Viewings at SMoCA starts at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 20th at 7374 East Second Street in Scottsdale. Call 480-874-4612 or visit

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi