SO I CRIED AT THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART

  1. Like, really cried.
  2. It was in James Turrell's Breathing Light.
  3. Along with a handful of other people, I entered a large white room bathed in slowly changing pale light.
    We'd taken off our shoes and left our belongings outside. We were told we had eight minutes.
  4. The walls' curvature made it impossible to tell exactly where the room ended, so it appeared to go on forever. It almost seemed like a fog.
    In some ways, it reminded me of this Olafur Eliasson installation I saw in 2009 at the MCA in Chicago.
  5. I quipped to my friend that I half expected a figure to emerge at any moment.
    Specifically, Superman, because the whole thing screamed Fortress of Solitude.
  6. But mostly we were very quiet. The room felt cool, strange, disorienting.
  7. A few minutes in, as the colour in the room continued to shift, I started to feel comfortable. Not even just that: I started to feel comforted.
  8. Then the very wonderful docent approached us and encouraged us to ask questions.
  9. We asked first about how the room was constructed, as if it was a puzzle to be figured out.
  10. Then someone asked if he knew about the artist's inspiration. The docent told us that Turrell was inspired by trips to church with his grandmother when he was young and, specifically, the phrase "Let there be light!"
  11. And I don't know if it was the docent's words or the continuing shifting of the light in that basically silent room, but I was suddenly quite overwhelmed.
  12. Now, I am certainly someone who cries easily. That said, I do not typically start crying so hard that I have trouble getting words out. But I managed to ask, "Sometimes, does this piece make people feel very emotional?"
  13. He sweetly responded that, yes, it happens. And he said that the piece was for, about and impacted by the people who visited it together.
  14. Less than a minute later, a gentle chime sounded and our time in the room was up.
  15. We filed out to begin gathering our things and, as I did so, the docent approached me. He said that people often ask him about his favourite response people have to the room. "And I'll tell you, it's the response you had. Because it says a lot about what's in your soul."
  16. Which of course made me cry again.
  17. Because you guys, it has been a hard year. And not one that has always been filled with a lot of hope. But that was what that room did for me. It reminded me of the many different possible good outcomes. That sometimes, even briefly, we can crowd out the darkness with light.