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Submerged in a neon trance

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A sense of boundaries is torn down as James Turrell presents his unique exhibit of neon lights at the Pomona College Museum of Art.

The awkwardness of walking into the building and down a quiet hallway was only escalated when I was asked to take off my shoes and put on doctor-style booties, in order to see the glowing exhibit that waited ahead.

Too my surprise, the exhibit was shocking, yet very intriguing.

“It feels like gravity has been manipulated,” Melissa Weiss, a Pomona College student said.

“It feels as though I don’t have a sense of space,” Allie Comet, a fellow Pomona student added.

As the attendee is escorted into the Ganzfeld room, he or she is advised to stand in the center as to keep from stumbling into a wall and enduring bodily harm. The entire room was white and towards the front stood a wall with a large geometric rectangle lit by neon lights. The back of the room was completely different; surrounding the door was an approximately six-inch band of neon light that incased the doorway.

Adding to the extraordinary design of the room was the addition of fog that created a lack of spatial definition. The differing lengths and shapes made me feel unbalanced and unsure of the actual size of the room. In some regards, it felt like being on the set of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

Outside of the Ganzfeld room stood two other rooms entitled Led Tall Glass. The entire exhibit played on the public’s correlation of using color to manipulate their sensory of emotions.

In the front of each room stood a large rectangular box that also was lit by neon lights. At first it is not easy to realize the significance of the boxes, but after sitting at the provided benches, I was pulled into a semi-trans as I watched the colors on the screen gradually fade from one color to the next.

It was hard to realize at first, but one of the two rooms used colors that were bold and daring like red, pink, orange, and dark blue, whereas the other room used soft and airy colors like yellow, light blue and white.

Sitting in each room and absorbing the color that was being reflected, stirred up several different emotions. The darker lights made the atmosphere of the room feel panicked and claustrophobic, while the light room felt calmed and relaxed.

The exhibit is unforgettable. It is interesting to realize that by changing the color of a room or taking away the borders of a room, it can make a person feel imbalanced.

As human beings we depend on our senses to move us around from day-to-day. In Turrell’s exhibit, he changes that idea by manipulating viewers to feel and think a certain way just by submerging them in a neon light.

The exhibit runs through May 17, 2008.

Cerina De Souza can be reached at

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