For hundreds of years, artists have made the sky their muse.
A new exhibition at University Galleries features a collection of artists who go deep into the sky for a show that delves into the beauty and mystery of space. “An Infinite and Omnivorous Sky,” open now through Feb. 19, holds the works of 29 artists who have scanned the heavens and found inspiration to explore poetic scientific and geopolitical views of space.
The exhibition is curated by Kendra Paitz, University Galleries director and chief curator. Paitz said the fascination with the cosmos is universal and a prime subject for all sorts of artistic exploration.
“I wanted to bring together this collection of works thinking about how these different ideas, mediums, and practices interact with one another. There are a lot of lens-based works in the exhibition. The artists are using cameras in different ways and using a variety of methods and techniques.”
“We have halochrome photographs taken with these long-distance lenses. They’re sunrises over Mars.”
The works are from Brittany Nelson and called Sol #999. Viewing the photos from a distance reveals brown and grey tones, very subtle photos with a small circle within them.
“But as we approach, they become almost this golden metallic shade where you have to keep shifting your perspective to find that orb, to find that sun.”
The exhibition also includes works by Dario Robleto. The photographer is showing images that appear to be a night sky filled with brightly shining stars and planets. Its origin, however, is terrestrial, while still with a measure of stardust, Paitz said.
"What you’re actually looking at in this piece, which is called ‘Survival Does Not Lie in The Heavens,’ is a triptych of three large-scale digital photographs. These are actually the stage lights taken from album covers of live performances of now-deceased blues and jazz and gospel singers.”
“Robleto is someone who really engages in concepts of deep time. He’s been an artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute. He’s exhibited his work all over the world. Another piece of his is called ‘The Dismantled Sun’ and is a sculptural work. It’s a wooden box that opens to reveal these gold reflective materials in it. What it’s showcasing are cyanotype, an early photographic process of amateur astronomers.”
The exhibition also features a wall of clocks, but you’d better take a close look at them before you set your watch to any of them. The installation of nine clocks is by Katie Patterson, revealed Paitz.
“At first glance they look like these large-scale institutional clocks, black frames with white faces. But as you get closer, you see that they are divided into a variety of different segments that vary across the nine clocks. These clocks are all calibrated for all eight planets in our solar system, plus Earth’s moon, and they show the duration of day and night.”
That’s 24 hours for Earth. But Mercury is over 4,000 hours.
With an exhibition about space, it was only natural for University Galleries to invest in some complimentary programming, including a screening of artist Kambui Olujimi’s film “Skywriters” at the ISU Planetarium. Olujimi will also deliver a lecture on Feb. 1.
Olujimi has an installation at the Galleries of 13 flags.
“On the flags are digital collages of photographic images of failed shuttle and rocket launches,” explained Paitz. “It’s a very surprising sculpture. It fills a 40-foot wall with these flags jutting out. They speak to the ranges of scientific progress, that there are a lot of sacrifices to be made as technology progresses.”
Paitz hopes gallery visitors will be continually drawn to the works on display.
“Where you have an initial impression of it just by looking at it aesthetically, but where you keep coming back to it, you keep thinking it through, you keep making further connections. It’s really thrilling to bring works by all of these international artists into our community.”
“An Infinite and Omnivorous Sky,” is open now an continues through Feb. 19 at University Galleries.
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