As always, people here get excited when an exhibition, usually several years in the making, is nearing completion. I imagine that it's something akin to sending a child off to college. Even though they put you through the ringer on a daily basis, it's a bit hard to let them go when it's finally time.
But, alas, SITES project director Devra Wexler dropped off the last two prints for Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapesat the framer's shop yesterday. We did a final pass over the .pdfs of the exhibition panels on Wednesday, looking one last time for grammatical inconsistencies and to ensure that the language was as strong and compelling as the images themselves. All the planets must have been properly aligned as almost everything was perfect.
Of course, it's easy when you're working with these kinds of images--so amazing that they make you wish you paid more attention in Astronomy 101. The man behind these interstellar visions is Michael Benson, an artist and filmmaker who spent years scouring NASA's archives for raw material with which to work. Benson essentially took stills that the space probes had shot on various missions (going back some 40 years) and collaged them together, creating seamless alien landscapes and panoramas. From the blazing inferno at the center of our solar system to the terrestrial and gaseous planets and their bizarre moons, Benson makes these far-away places appear tangible and real. It's art and science and a great deal of patience as some of the completed images took months for him to assemble. These are the kinds of images that inspire 5th graders to be astronauts and astronomers. And for the rest of us, Benson's planetary pictures make us realize that there is a beautiful sense of continuity in our wondrous solar system.
Beyond starts its national tour in March 2008 at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, NJ. It travels until 2011. Check the schedule to see if Beyond will make a stop in your hometown.
Plans are really coming together for our new Grand Canyon exhibition, Lasting Light, which opens in February 2009. Recently I sat down with collaborator Richard Jackson of Hance Partners, the Flagstaff studio that printed the stunning photographs included in the exhibition.
Mr. Jackson shared with me the background story of the exhibition, and his enthusiasm for the subject was evident.
Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography grew out of a conversation Mr. Jackson had with staff at the Grand Canyon Association. As a fine-art printer, Mr. Jackson has extensive experience working with landscape photographers, and thought that in addition to the images themselves, a bigger story could be told: that of the photographers themselves.
"Pictures are only part of the story," Mr. Jackson says. "The stories of the photographers are also amazing. Think of the dedication they have, the effort to go day after day, year after year, sometimes to the same place time after time just to find the right weather, the right conditions to take the picture that truly expresses the place. They're carrying 80-pound backpacks into the canyon, and then there is the artistry and skill to be able to communicate their vision to those who don't make the trek."
SITES is pleased to be able to bring these stories and the resulting photographs to the public through this new traveling exhibition. Stay tuned for more updates on Lasting Light!
In the beginning, it was tough to bring the content in Earth from Space down to a level that most of us could understand. Let's face it, the hard science of what makes space satellites tick isn't exactly the kind of thing most people study on a daily basis. But what everyone can appreciate are the images that those machines zip back to Earth. I mean who wouldn't find a picture of New York City from 500 miles above the planet as least as cool (or more so) as an image of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walking down the red carpet? How about the perfect geometry of the Great Pyramids as viewed from hundreds of miles above the Earth? In a word, "awesome."
You can imagine that we were elated when we heard that Earth from Space, an exhibition that almost didn't happen, received the 2007 Shoemaker Award for Communications Product Excellence. The award recognizes materials that effectively "communicate complex scientific concepts and discoveries into words and pictures that capture the interests and imaginations of the American public." The judges included writers, designers, and scientists from the both the public and private sectors. Dirk Kempthorne, the current Secretary of the Interior, presented the award to the project team, which included Devra Wexler, Jennifer Schommer, Andrew Johnston (NASM exhibition curator), Frederic Williams, Miriam Keegan, Ron Beck (USGS), and Marissa Hoechsetter.
The whole group had a fantastic time working on this exhibition. Most of all, we were thrilled with the help that NASA, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, and USGS provided to make it all come to life. Check it out in your corner of the world!
Just got back from a week in Maine, where the sky is so clear at night that we could see the International Space Station. We found this link, which allows viewers to select their closest city to get the time and coordinates of the ISS's orbit: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/sightings/index.html
Watching a bright light cross the night sky for 3 minutes is very cool. So is SITES' exhibition, Earth from Space, which gives glimpses of what those satellites see from above. And the exhibition's website provides resources for parents, teachers, and visitors. Check it out at: http://www.earthfromspace.si.edu
-Andrea Stevens, Director of Strategic Communications