Scottsdale SMOCA Review—Petite Art Treats Sync with Landscape

Art Retreat

What a perfect retreat from the harsh sun one can find in Scottsdale!

SMOCA (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art), a stop on the free trolley that circles Scottsdale’s downtown of sorts, is a small oasis to help you re-charge on any day—sunny, hot or hotter still. This was especially so in an early May visit, when there were only two exhibits open, both having a particular impact in the context of the desert surrounds of the city.

Ocean of Light: Submergence—A Squidsoup Project is said by its creators to capture the vast nature of bits and bytes flowing across datasets that mind an electronic instrument or computer. This writer suggests that you ignore this explication and instead just dive into the alternative universe created by this  exhibit.

With motion sensors  feeling you and your explorations, strings of changing color lights start a conversation with you.

Scottsdale SMOCA
Photo: Paul Blakemore

From blue to green to waves of pink, then to a sea of purple and beyond, pulling your eyes in up, down and then wide to the inch in front of you—this is immersive art in its most immersive.   You get the rush of sunrise except it’s coming at you from top to bottom and bottom to top. It’s only at the edges of the room where you find some reminders that you are in a room. The changing rhythms of the light grab your attention and you tune out any fellow visitors even when they are in your “row”.

Think isolation chamber with a touch of carnival joy. It’s great!

In Sync With Southwestern Skies

For this writer, whose earliest Arizona memories include waking up on the bottom of the Grand Canyon to experience the feeling of being surrounded by the sun in the morning, instead of just watching it rise, this submergence seems very in tune with the landscape.

And to amplify this, just a few steps away is yet another exhibit, Knight Rise by James Turrel. You find this exhibit by exiting the museum building proper to walk through an inviting patio, feeling both a protection of being inside yet outside as well.  This is actually public art open to all during regular museum hours.   It is essentially an elliptical hole to the sky in a round courtyard. Most visitors seem to be intrigued by the idea of seeing if they can fit in the small space that surrounds the round seating area.  Some may spot Turrel's installation as just like the one at MOMA’s Brooklyn PS1 space. This twin though, opens to the big Southwest sky—something you have noticed many times already when you are a visitor hailing from a Midwestern metropolis.

Petite and inviting, SMOCA earns a spot on even the shortest Scottsdale visit itinerary.

Scottsdale SMOCA
SMOCA's architecture fits very well into the desert landscape Photo: Peter Kachergis


Closed Mondays and major holidays
Tuesday, Noon – 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Noon – 5 p.m.
Thursday, Noon – 9 p.m.
Friday, Noon – 9 p.m.
Saturday, Noon – 9 p.m.
Sunday, Noon – 5 p.m.


7374 East Second Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251


$10 Adults
$7 Students

Free 15 and Under
Free on Thursdays
Free after 5 p.m. Fri and Sat


Photos:  Top Slider Photos- Paul Blakemore; all others Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated

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