Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

John Muir


The image above was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft of the tops of the clouds surrounding Jupiter. I find myself constantly staring into it this morning with a mix of awe and dejection.

Awe at the sheer beauty and power of it. It is spectacular on a visual level in so many ways, at least to my eyes. The force of its rhythm is immense and the enhanced colors capture an emotional tone that rivals the work of the greatest painters. Looking at it, I see the ghosts of Van Gogh– I mean, this image is Starry Night taken up to the next several levels— Picasso, Goya, Chagall, Bosch and so many more.  With my last glimpse I saw Munch and Dali and an image of the Minotaur. And Thomas Hart Benton. I think any of these painters would look at this and find inspiration, would see that intangible force in it that begs to be painted.

I know that I feel that way but that is where the dejection enters the picture. It inspires but in a way that seems far beyond my meager talents and my simple mind. It’s like being a Golden Retriever watching his master, let’s say it’s Einstein, pondering the Theory of Relativity at his chalkboard. I know there’s something there because it seems so important to my master and I want to help but all I can do is bark and wonder what the hell I am looking at.

I am like a frustrated dog trying to describe the power of the universe.

But it’s early. I’ve only been looking at this for forty minutes or so. Maybe the dejection will pass and the longer I look, the more I will move myself into those swirls of cloud and color to find a rhythm, or even a trace of one, that aligns itself with the simpler ones that run within myself.

And maybe something will come of it. You can never tell what the end product, if any, will be from any point of inspiration. Maybe it will set off a series of thoughts and ideas that takes you galaxies away from the original inspiration. But an image like this has an effect in some way, even if it does show up right away.

I feel the need to look a little more. Take a deeper look for yourself.

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Far, Far Away

Jupiter From Below-  NASA-JPL-Space Science InstituteThe week after a show’s opening is an odd time for me.  Even though you might think it would be a time to relax and savor the success of the show, it seldom is.  Yes, I do get to let out a deep sigh of relief just to have the task done and to have not fallen on my face. But I am often fatigued from writing and speaking so much about myself and my work.

It’s a fatigue that makes me feel a bit grimy and  greasy.  I feel like I’m covered with an unpleasant layer of ego sweat that can’t be washed away.  It has to fade away slowly.

I’ve always viewed the work of self-promotion as simply being a necessary aspect of the job of being an independent artist.  In simplest terms, I am basically a small business that produces a product and every small business must promote their product or they will not stay in business for very long.  So I do what I can to promote the work, writing about and pushing the paintings out into the world of social media to raise the profile of my product.

But when the product is  the art which is at its core you and your internal self, there is a sense that you are selling your very being.  That ups the stakes a bit because to not succeed feels like a diminishing of yourself.  It feels as though it is not just the art that is or is not being embraced, it is you.

You try to keep that view at bay, to keep the self and the art separate, but when you are putting so much of yourself into the work it is a hard thing to do.

So you either embrace the task as a necessary evil and forge ahead, risking the rejection of work and yourself by the public or you avoid it altogether.  But avoiding it is like avoiding exercise– you know it’s good for you but it is so much easier to skip it and make excuses for why your time is better spent doing just about anything else.  No sweating and no effort required.

I choose to do this work and part of that is accepting that grimy ego sweat and the fatigue from always pushing my product and myself.  But like anything that you do over and over again, you come to know that feeling and realize that eventually the effort yields positive results.

That’s where I am today– sweaty and tired.  But the feeling will fade and I will soon be ready to go at it again with all the effort I can muster.

But until then I am letting my mind wander and I find myself far away.  In this case, I find myself completely intrigued by this image from NASA that captures Jupiter in a stereographic image taken from below its South Pole.  I’ve looked at this image about a dozen times over the past couple of days and I find myself mesmerized by it.  It is just about as far away as I can get and it cools the ego sweat in a most wonderful way.

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earth-full-view 1972It’s hard to believe that the first time we were able to see the Earth in full-view was a photo taken a little less than 42 years ago, by the the Apollo 17 astronauts in December of 1972.  This Blue Marble  image that changed our view of who we are, allowing us to see ourselves from the outside as a whole,  and became part of our worldview.  It is an image that is so powerful that we immediately absorbed it and it seemed as though it had been with us forever.  Yet it is a relatively young image for us.

From looking down on Earth from space, many astronauts have had an experience that has been called the Overview Effect.  It is a  sense of awe and sudden understanding as they see the relationship of all things on the planet to one another and how little protects us from the harshness of space.  They sense that we are all interconnected and all actions effect the whole.

It is a  mind-altering view.

There is a website called the Daily Overview that has a film  that, with the help of several astronauts, t describes the Overview Effect .  The website also  features striking shots of Earth taken from satellites on a daily basis.   Most of the images are of man’s transformation of the environment , some startling in the way they scar the face of our planet and others with a highly patterned beauty.  I have always been attracted to overviews of the landscape, to take that different perspective, so this is a natural for me.  I believe this is as close to being an astronaut than I will ever be.  Check out their site to see many, many more views.

Daily Overview -boca-raton-florida-from-above-aerial-satellite Daily Overview -brondby-haveby-denmark-from-above-aerial-satellite Daily Overview -central-park-new-york-city-from-above-aerial-satellite Daily Overview vineyards-in-huelva-spain-from-above-aerial-satellite

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North Celstial Tree-- JeronimoLosadaI’ve been having some work done here in the studio recently and have been sharing my space with a couple of carpenters.  I am never comfortable sharing my  workspace with anybody and always feel a bit distracted, even inhibited.  But both Tony and Nick are good and easy going guys and I have been able to get some work done.

Yesterday, Tony told me to check out the NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.  He thought it would look familiar to me.  Clicking on the site I was greeted by the photo above, a magnificent image of a great tree under a night sky taken by Spanish astrophotographer Jeronimo Losada  near Almaden de la Plata in the province of Seville, Spain.  Through a break in the upper reaches of the tree you can see the North Celestial Pole.  Losada focused on the North  Star and over two hours recorded a series of 30 second exposures which created the star trails that make up this spectacular sky.

It was just a great photo and it certainly did strike home even though the tree was not exactly my Red Tree.  But  Tony was right.  The tree , the saddle in the center of the photo created by the wide angle of the lens  and the silhouettes of trees on the horizon reminded me of much of my work.  I had even done a painting or two with that same swirl of light and color in the sky.

Please check out Jeronimo Losada’s  blog  to see some of his other wonderful shots of the landscape beneath the night sky.  There are some brilliant shots there and it’s well worth a visit.  It is a Spanish language site but most browsers have translators.

And for some other great shots of the heavens check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day.  Today’s is a great shot as well.




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You Are Here

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

–Carl Sagan

Earth Seen From Dark Side of Saturn NASA-JPL-CaltechWhen I saw this recent photo taken from the Cassini  Spacecraft capturing Saturn and its rings as well as our own little blue speck of a planet, all I could think of was how utterly trivial my own worries and concerns were in the scope of all things.  I guess that can be a frightening thing, to feel so small and insignificant in relation to the universe, to realize that you are but a grain of sand on an immense beach filled with more grains of sand than you can possibly imagine.

 But to my surprise, I am not frightened.  If anything, I am pacified, knowing that  I am but a grain of sand subject to forces beyond my control.  And a grain of sand cannot alter the beach or stand up to the force of the ocean.  It goes where the tide carries it, where the wind blows it.

What good is worrying to a grain of sand?

So, go with the flow today.  We are all grains of sand and should enjoy our time on this beach while the sun shines down on us.

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After yesterday’s post, one that featured a NASA photo of Rhea, a moon of Saturn, I was asked by Clint from the Principle Gallery if perhaps I might be doing some outer space themed paintings in the future.  I really hadn’t given it much thought , to be honest, but I suddenly remembered a few pieces I had painted many years ago, long before I ever thought of showing my work in public.  They were experiments, the sort of thing I often worked on then when I was working out color and form.  Abstractions, really.  Most were pretty bad.  But there was one that I always really enjoy  when I stumble across it when browsing through a bin of old work.

Shown here at the top, this piece from 1994  has Third Stone From the Sun written on a corner.  It’s a watercolor that was purely an exploration of color and shape.  When I was done it struck me that it had the feel of some sort of galactic apocalypse, as though our Earth had suddenly decided to linejump  Mercury and Venus  to get closer to the Sun and this was the result.

It’s not a great piece but it makes me happy despite the obvious downside to the situation it depicts.  At the time, I remember that it made me consider following this abstracted path but I opted to follow the one that has led me here.  I often wonder what I would be doing at this moment had I chosen that path.  Probably not writing this.  But you can’t linger too long over such questions because you will never know.  The paths through time fade quickly behind us.

Here’s the song that inspired the title, Third Stone From the Sun.  It’s classic Jimi Hendrix in a mellow form.

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I am always stunned by the photos sent back to us from our robotic spacecraft as they explore our solar system.  The sheer beauty and magnitude of these images really puts our own world into a different perspective, one that is humbling to say the least.  The vastness of these shots makes our personal concerns seem small and insignificant yet, at the same time, inspiring.There’s also an elegance to them that is so appealing.

I can’t explain this fully so early in the morning.

This photo from a few years back is one of my favorites.  Take from NASA“s  Cassini-Huygens craft which is exploring around Saturn, this image is like a beautifully constructed abstract painting with cool colors and stark geometry.  Beautiful.  The image consists of one of  Saturn‘s moons, Rhea with the gray atmosphere of Saturn acting as a backdrop.  The image is taken in a way that looks directly at the very edge of the rings of Saturn which creates the black band that cuts across the image.  The result is just a beautiful image, one that I find myself just staring at for long moments at a time while I consider how we fit into this vast puzzle.


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