Exploring the Solar System through Art
Written by: Michelle Rouch
University of Arizona’s third annual 2015 The Art of Planetary Science (TAPS) welcomed nearly 250 works of art of all media from 118 artists and scientists. The grand opening celebrated the beauty of science and technology, transforming the Kuiper Space Science Building into a 3 tier Art Museum for the weekend. The displayed artwork came from local artists who were inspired by aerospace technology, science, and astronomy along with scientists who created artwork from their research. The Lunar and Planetarium Laboratory continue to push the boundaries by creating an opportunity for scientists to consider their research as art and artists to interpret the same theme in creating their artwork.
TAPS breaks down the barriers by combining an open competition for artists and scientists of all levels and types to explore our solar system through art. The event is open to the public to experience how the science department collaborated with the School of Art, Art & Visual Culture Department, Culture and Art Education by hosting live art activities. Art students , John Preston Strand and Mercé Mueller asked the guests to help them bridge the gap between art and science with their interactive art where guests are asked to color one square and affix the square to its coordinated number. The activity involved the guests to help create an artistic rendition of the equation from the theory of elasticity and flexure. The artwork is a mathematical equation with the Plate Flexure, illustrating how the tectonic plates of the Earth and other planets are not infinitely strong.
The People’s Choice Award went to Jamie Molaro’s “Stress, on the rocks.” Her artwork was a book copy of Molaro’s recently defended PhD thesis, a research focusing on weathering rocks on the Moon due to the daily heating and cooling of its surface. The carved areas of the artwork depicted cratered landscape continuously modified by thermal weathering process. Molaro adds, “Each day, thermal stresses form that can, over time, break down rocks into dust.” The wooden box was handcrafted by Ricki Weaver from RickisWoodWorks on Etsy. Jamie Molaro recently received her PhD in Planetary Science and is the founder of The Art of Planetary Science exhibition. She is passionate in cultivating science literacy and appreciation of the societies.
Geoffrey Notkin, host of Meteorite Men on the Science Channel, noted “It’s overwhelming because there is so much to see. It is wonderful to see a real variety and innovative art both inspired by and for inspiring people interested in space, science, and exploration.” Another guest offered, “The show offers great diversity of medium subject matter.”
The UA Museum of Art offered a special exhibit of world renowned space artist Robert McCall, best known for aerospace and fantasy illustrations and murals. For over sixty years Robert McCall has been a visionary illustrator of mankind’s journey through history and the cosmos. His optimism is weaved throughout his paintings.
One month before TAPS, the university held a Bennuval, a Space, Art & Music Festival in Tucson to commemorate the one year anniversary before the launch of OSIRIS-REx, a UA-led NASA mission. The Lead Principal Investigator, Dante Lauretta created an evening to experience a multi-dimension art entertainment with space music, space dance, and space art.
Tucson-Chapter of the IAAA, co-chairs Simon Kregar and Michelle Rouch, would like to thank Timothy Swindle, Department Head and the TAPS organizers: Jamie Molaro, Sarah Peacock, James Keane, and Hannah Tanquary for their tireless effort in harmonizing the arts with science.
IAAA is a nonprofit organization whose members implement and participate in astronomical and space art projects, promote education about space art and foster international cooperation in artistic work inspired by the exploration of the Universe.
For more information on TAPS go to www.lpl.arizona.edu/art.