If you've followed our postings for a while now, you know that I get to work on our space and science exhibitions. Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes (which opened this past weekend in Santa Barbara) has beautiful photographs of the planets and moons. NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration is a wondrous selection of artworks from NASA's art program. In development is Suited for Space, featuring the photographs of Mark Avino and based on the book by Space History curator Amanda Young. I've worked with scientists from the National Air and Space Museum and NASA, but until last week, my connection to real live astronauts had been through the artwork.
Last Thursday, however, I had the privilege and honor of spending nearly an hour with artist Alan Bean. Name sound familiar? He is not only a painter, but he was the fourth man to set foot on the moon, exactly 40 years ago today, as an Apollo 12 astronaut. And he was the commander of Skylab II, living in space for nearly two full months.
Mr. Bean has graciously offered to loan us one of his recent works to share with the venues hosting NASA | ART. Currently on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the mall in Washington, DC, his fabulous paintings will soon have to go back to their owners--all except one, which will be shipped to Colorado Springs to join the NASA | ART exhibition.
What makes Mr. Bean's artwork so special? Well, for one thing, no other artist in the world has ever been to the moon! And the paintings share Mr. Bean's deeply personal stories and memories. Each painting is also textured--little details that you might at first miss: A small bump here, a little scratch there. When I was examining the paintings with Mr. Bean, I learned that those bumps aren't dust or paint--they are pieces of the Apollo 12 heat shield. And that little scratch? Made with Mr. Bean's own hammer, brought back from the moon. The small pieces of fabric are pieces from his own spacesuit's flight patch, or part of the flag, and include bits of moon dust that still cling to the cloth 40 years later.
Looking at a painting with the actual artist is an extraordinary thing, but it is especially out of this world when the artist has lived in space!