November 3, 2004–January 30, 2005

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90049 (Exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405)
(310) 440-4500, fax (310) 440-4595
Contact: Mia Cariño (310) 440-4544
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Neil Folberg, “Olive Tree”

“The deserts of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan seem never to have sat for a lens quite as magical as Neil Folberg’s. . . .Spectacular is not too effusive a word.
—Grace Glueck, The New York Times

Los Angeles—Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land, an exhibition of more than 30 compelling works by American photographer Neil Folberg (b. 1950), will be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center from November 3, 2004 through January 30, 2005. Appealing to the scientific, spiritual and artistic eye simultaneously, the images capture the timeless beauty of the land and sky of Jerusalem and Sinai. Presented in association with the Skirball’s landmark Einstein exhibition, Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land will be on view in the Skirball’s Ruby Gallery. Ruby Gallery exhibitions are always free to the public.

Folberg, a student and colleague of the late Ansel Adams, is widely known for his color photography of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern landscapes and built environments. For the Celestial Nights series, Folberg created large-scale, black-and-white nightscapes of Israel employing multiple exposures with a variety of infrared and scientific films for enhanced response. In the works, the heavens and the earth appear to mirror each other in seamless splendor, setting an ancient land resonant in meaning—the cradle of three major world religions—against the awesome and eternal spectacle of the infinite night sky. As bestselling science writer Timothy Ferris (Coming of Age in the Milky Way, The Whole Shebang) writes in the large-format book that accompanies the exhibition, “The earth retains its magical, almost spooky air of both belonging to the cosmos and yet standing apart from it somehow. And the mind, included for once with earth and stars as part of an integrated whole, feels at home at last.” The companion book, also entitled Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land (Aperture, 2001) won first place in the special trade photography category of the Bookbinder’s Guild of New York Awards in 2001. It will be available for purchase at Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball.

Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land includes powerful images of olive trees illuminated by moonlight and ancient ruins under skies filled with clouds and stars. The works describe places where the spiritual is at once near—imprinted in the forms of the arid landscapes—and far away, in the dark, starlit recesses of space. In Folberg’s own words: “In landscape I see a revelation of how pure spirituality has descended into physical existence…. These are the scenes, on the human edge of the cosmos, that I am showing in these photographs.”

The exhibition is touring worldwide through the Aperture Foundation. The Skirball will be the exhibition’s third venue in the United States, following successful runs at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the fall of 2003 and at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco’s Eugene and Elinore Friend Center for the Arts in early 2004.

Born in San Francisco and raised in the Midwest, Folberg graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. Since 1976, he has lived in Jerusalem with his wife and family. His recent work has focused on the landscape and architecture of the Near East. Folberg’s photographs of the uninhabited wilderness of Israel were published in his first book, In A Desert Land (Abbeville, 1997). His bestselling book, And I Shall Dwell Among Them: Historic Synagogues of the World (Aperture, 2001), containing photographic studies of the spiritual, architectural and cultural significance of synagogues throughout the Jewish Diaspora, won the National Jewish Book Award. Fifty-nine works by Folberg are in the collection of the Skirball Museum, several of which are on view in the Skirball’s permanent exhibition, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America. Folberg’s work has been displayed in galleries around the world and is represented, in addition to the Skirball, in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Bibliothéque Nationale, the Smithsonian Institution and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, among others.

Catalog: Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land, featuring photographs by Neil Folberg and an introduction by Timothy Ferris, published by Aperture in September 2001 (64 pages, 40 tritone images, ISBN 0-89381-945-X).

Other Einstein-related exhibition and programs: Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land is one of a number of exhibitions and programs being presented in association with the Skirball’s Einstein exhibition, on view through May 29, 2005. For more information about Einstein-related lectures, classes, films, contemporary art installations, theater, dance, comedy and family programs, visit


Visiting the Skirball
Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405).
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; extended hours on Thursday evenings 5:00–9:00 p.m. through December 30, 2004 only, except holidays (see below); closed Mondays and on the following holidays: November 11, November 25, January 1, and additional days in 2005 to be announced.
Admission to Celestial Nights: Visions of an Ancient Land is free to the public.
Einstein Admission: $12 General, $10 Group Rates, $8 Students and Seniors,  free for Skirball Members and children under 12; admission to Einstein is also free to the general public on Thursdays.
Parking is free. 
For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit To become a Skirball Member, the public may call (310) 440-4599 or visit
The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey's Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music and more.

About the Skirball
Skirball Cultural Center
is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home.

Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through public programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through scholarship in American Jewish history and related publications; and through outreach to the community.

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