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Celestial Artwork: Sculptures Inspired by the Cosmos

For the 40,000 years humanity has been creating art, people have been inspired by the night skies. Some of my work is inspired by our location in southern Arizona - home to dark skies initiatives, several observatories, the telescope Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona and several space sciences organizations. In a world with more human activity and digital screens than ever, our sky is a constant reminder of how small we are and how much remains to learn and explore. The following sculptures are just a few of the ways I have investigated this topic.

Recently we put together an accurate model of the stars and constellations that surround the earth. It’s a star-finder that offers a one-to-one correspondence between the sphere and the stars above. It also shows what other people are seeing from their perspective, everywhere around the globe. This is part of my series of sculptures for remote locations. I’ve always loved scientific instruments as sculpture. They have a certain purity and discipline and they derive their beauty from nature.

The five-pointed stars of As Above, So Below are decorated with what appears to be a straightforward floral arabesque inspired by Islamic calligraphy. However, the ‘vines’ are created using conic sections – ellipses, parabolas, and spirals – the sort of pathways that stars and other bodies in space follow when guided only by gravity and their own inertia.

The series is set on Abu Dhabi’s waterfront in a dynamic and walkable

urban environment.

The title As Above, So Below suggests that not only do the same laws of nature apply on the scale of the universe as well as on earth but that there is an aesthetic similarity between the motions of heavenly bodies and plant forms on earth. At night, hundreds of tiny point source lights inside the sculptures project these calligraphic patterns onto nearby objects and visitors to the hotel.

In 2020, I was asked by NASA to create a kinetic sculpture for their Goddard Visitor Center. The goal was to relate the art to 1) orbital motion 2) wind and climate and 3) the view of the earth from satellite platforms. I chose three orbiting spheres to represent the sun, earth and moon. I made the spheres reflective so that the image of the earth seen from below would be similar to a fish eye view from above. And I allowed the spheres to orbit each other on bearings so that it would move in response to the wind.


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