Charles Ross (artist)

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Charles Ross
Born (1937-12-17) December 17, 1937 (age 80)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Nationality American
Known for Sculpture
Notable work Star Axis, Dwan Light Sanctuary, Harvard Business School Chapel, Year of Solar Burns
Spouse(s) Jill O'Bryan
Awards Guggenheim Fellow

Charles Ross (born December 17, 1937 in Philadelphia) is an American sculptor and earthwork artist. In 2011, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow.[1]


Ross graduated from University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in mathematics and M.A. in Sculpture in 1962.[2]

Ross is creating an earthwork known as Star Axis, which is a naked eye observatory and architectonic sculpture. Star Axis's geometry is derived from the shifting relationship of earth to the sun and the north star.[3]

"As you walk up Star Axis's Star Tunnel, you're walking exactly parallel to the axis of the earth and you're aligned with its outer extension to the stars."-- Charles Ross[4]

Star Axis was begun in 1971. The Star Tunnel is the central element of Star Axis. It frames our north star, Polaris. The Star Tunnel is precisely aligned with the earth’s axis. Within it a stairway rises 10 stories toward a circular opening at the top that frames all of the orbits of Polaris throughout the ages. As you climb the stairway toward the circular opening you see larger and larger views of the sky. The view from each stair frames an orbit of Polaris for a particular time in the 26,000 year cycle called precession. The smallest orbit of Polaris, viewed from the bottom stair, is about the size of a dime held at arms length. The largest orbit of Polaris, viewed from the top stair, encompasses your entire field of vision.[5]

In 1965, Ross began creating prism sculptures—minimal geometrical objects as perceptual vessels that alter the perception of the environments that surround them. In 1980, he created his first site specific solar spectrum installation. These permanent environmental color and light installations are created by mounting large scale prisms in skylights and windows that project huge spectrums into the architecture. In 1992, Ross designed the prisms in the Harvard Business School's The Class of 1959 Chapel for architect Moshe Safdie. In 1996, he created a solar spectrum environment for the Dwan Light Sanctuary at the United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico. This installation includes 24 prisms mounted in two apses and four skylights so that there is solar spectrum in the sanctuary from sunrise to sunset every day. He has also created permanent solar spectrum installations in more than 20 other locations including Saitama University Medical School near Tokyo in 1999.[6] In 2003, Ross designed a solar spectrum environment for the National Museum of the American Indian as a reflection of the Native American relationship with light and cosmology. Ross was included in the 2015 film Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art.[7]

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas McEvilley, Charles Ross: Following the North Star, Charles Ross: the Substance of Light, (Santa Fe, NM: Radius Books) 2012
  • Klaus Ottmann, Lightness of Being: The Art of Charles Ross, Charles Ross: the Substance of Light, (Santa Fe, NM: Radius Books) 2012
  • Jean-Hubert Martin, Le Chateau d’ Oiron et son Cabinet de Curiosités, (Paris: Éditions du Patrimoine) 2000, 170-173.
  • Susan Karlin, “A Sculptor Works Up an Exposé of the Stars’ Secrets”, New York Times, Arts & Leisure, Sunday, November 3, 2002; 21,28.


  1. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Charles Ross". 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016. 
  2. ^ Klaus OTTMANN (2013). "Lightness of Being: The Art of Charles Ross" in Substance of Light, Santa Fe: Radius Books, 13.
  3. ^ NY Times, Susan Karlin, A Sculptor Works up an Exposé of the Stars Secrets
  4. ^ Serge PAUL (2011). "Sensorium Dei: Observatories of the American West" in Last Freedom: From Pioneers of Land Art in the 1960s to Nature in Cyberspace , Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 50.
  5. ^ Klaus OTTMANN (2013). "Lightness of Being: The Art of Charles Ross" in Substance of Light, Santa Fe: Radius Books, 27.
  6. ^ Klaus OTTMANN (2013). "Lightness of Being: The Art of Charles Ross" in Substance of Light, Santa Fe: Radius Books, 20-21.
  7. ^ "Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (2015)". IMDb. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 

External links[edit]

External image
Star Axis project