Biophilic Design in Light of Art, Neuroscience, and Technology

Enter Space: Stories from the High Oregon Desert

Bill Witherspoon releases a collection of short stories about the high Oregon desert, the place that inspired Sky Factory's unique design framework.

Written by: David Navarrete

Most people would be hard-pressed to think of any time when they managed to be alone in wild, undisturbed nature for an extended amount of time. Not only is this type of experience exceedingly rare in the 21st Century, but if one were so fortunate to seek out such solitude, one might succeed for a precious few hours, even days.

But what if you were to seek such experience as a recurring event lasting weeks, months, even years? How would such exposure, devoid of the customary interactions with others in the arid surroundings of a high-desert steppe, refine one’s perception? Could attuning oneself to the land, its seasons, and the hidden rhythms that mark their cycles dissolve the thin barrier between the observer and the vast, remote environment?

ENTER SPACE, Bill Witherspoon's collection of short stories about his solitary sojourns in the high steppe desert over more than 60 years, is a record of such a longitudinal experiment.

Back in 1961, a nineteen year-old travelled to Eastern Oregon’s High Desert—the western edge of the 200,000 square mile Great Basin. There, in North America’s largest area of endortheic watersheds—those that retain water and allow no outflow to other external bodies, but instead collect into seasonal or permanent bodies of water—one man would discover a symbiotic relationship with the vast geological expanse.

And so began a young man’s odyssey of self-discovery, one that would span over five decades and wield painting, sculpture, writing and photography as means to preserve the etchings of the landscape, one where life thrives at its most minimal.

The works of art that emerged from his forays into the heart of the desert would serve as a record of the artist’s experience. And though he would leave the desert many times over the ensuing six decades, the spirit of the place—its Genius Loci—would pull him back, back into its vastness, its remoteness, and—its magic.

Just as the desert’s patterns tell of the forces that shape this place, so ENTER SPACE stands as a record of life transformed by nature’s mysterious alchemy.


ENTER SPACE is a journey, both personal and universal. It is a record of a seeker of deep experience, one that recognizes our collective longing to recover universal kinship.

Throughout history, the desert has been the doorway to exile, purification, and rebirth. Because the desert makes life precarious, it refines consciousness until deeper, unseen laws of nature become perceptible.

ENTER SPACE is an initiation into the desert’s vast landscape where the pull of beauty, a sovereignty that can grant uncommon insight, may grace the devoted observer.

When perception becomes receptive to the spirit of a place—to its Genius Loci, the keen observer may be able to drink from hidden reservoirs, ones that reveal the character of the land to be none other than our own higher Self.

Bill Witherspoon, the artist who wields expressive form as the means to settle individual awareness into its elemental and universal essence is well known for his interest in the spiritual nature of ancient compositional arrangements. His forays into the making of Yantras as laid out by ancient treatises like the Vastu Sutra Upanishads revealed hidden dynamics in the subtle, yet complex ecology of the high Sonoran desert.

The Sri Yantra: The Oregon Desert Mystery, a documentary narrating the unexpected twist of events that resulted from carving a quarter-mile ancient symbol in the Alvord desert, is but one of Bill’s many environmental experiments that probe how sacred geometry resonates in this most silent and remote geography.

Those few who attune themselves to a place, to its distinct horizon line and zenith, and to the cosmic tapestry of events that give a geography its unique rhythm, reveal to the still observer that we are the substance of what American Indians call the Great Spirit.

Today, the nascent field of Neuroaesthetics, which studies the biological effects of the arts on human perception, confirms that expressive form mirrors the same organizing patterns that make up our brain and physiology. Cognitive neuroscience reveals that the world we perceive, and the characteristics of place, are so deeply intertwined in our neural pathways that where one begins and the other ends speak of a continuum rather than separate realms.

At last, cutting-edge science peers into the metaphysical and spiritual where all coincide that man and place are part and parcel—the same continuum.

The 27 stories and 108 photographs in ENTER SPACE stand as a record of the artist’s experience. This testimony, saturated by the land that witnessed these events, is a doorway to the desert, purification and resonance, and on a good day, self-discovery.

Bill’s stories run the gamut, galvanizing and gritty to quiet and grateful—always aware that a chance encounter with a wild horse or solitary bird may hold the opportunity for communion with a life seldom acknowledged, yet teeming with a shared essence.

The stories, some short and quotidian, others engrossing and sublime, linger in the mind and heart of the reader, transporting the listener to a place we seek, one where communion with the hidden reservoir of life erodes the deepest longings.


Coincident with the release of the book, Enter Space, a visual portrait of Bill Witherspoon’s recent life in the desert opens to the public September 1st at the ART 52 Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa. According to the artist, “Maybe, just maybe, these 30 photographs record something of the ineffable Beauty that overtakes life out there.”

The author will hold live readings of his desert experiences, journaled events that he recorded with the eye of a seasoned surveyor and the faith of one seeking communion with the sublime. Additional exhibit events will include live music inspired by the high desert and a conversation with the author about deep beauty, neuroaesthetics and Self-Transcending Experiences.

Attend the exhibit in person during its September run and receive a 10% discount on preorders of a limited edition book or fine art photograph. Signed copies of the book will be limited to the first 250 books. Exhibit images are each limited to 10 signed photographs.

Unsigned books and exhibit prints are available while supplies of the 1st edition last. Enter Space is also available online for out of town orders. For more information, www.enterspacenow.com or info@enterspacenow.com

Bill Witherspoon is the founder of Sky Factory, an artistic company whose design framework emerged from his experiences in the desert. The company's award-winning research on the effect of biophilic illusions of nature is based on the phenomenology of vast open space and its effect on cognition, perception, and attention.

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