Pictured Above: Deployment of two dove satellites made at Planet! PC: Astronaut Jeff Williams
Planet is an Earth-imaging company that makes satellites that are sent to space. Building satellites happens in-house, as does all communication, tracking, and testing of satellites. Mission Control monitors satellites orbiting Earth in real time while software engineers sort thousands of images of our planet, daily. With a constellation of satellites documenting Earth, we gain access to a new way of seeing the world and how it changes over time.
I am the 11th resident artist (AiR) to attend Planet’s residency program. This program exposes artists to Planet’s software, community, and humanitarian mission “using space to help life on Earth.” Planet’s office integrates art into all facets of its culture. From large paintings of migrating animals to vibrant stickers and badges for visitors, everyone and everything is marked by creative expression. Not to mention, artwork is etched onto satellites, culminating in the first art show in space!
Sending art to space is an opportunity to reflect on our role on Earth. To compose a visual message requires contemplation of identity, humanity and our place among the cosmos. It is a chance to celebrate our existence in a place beyond imagination, where only few have traveled. This is articulated in a short video Why Send Art To Space? created by National Geographic featuring Planet and Autodesk’s efforts to bring art to the stars.
An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.
— Charles Bukowski
Now, I was invited to make art for the orbiting exhibition. I illustrated a continuous-line drawing of a crowd of people entitled “Social Ties” to acknowledge how human collaboration and connection brings us to new heights. The artwork is accompanied by a message from Pericles, “[w]hat you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” This satellite is scheduled to deploy to space October 2017.
This week I toured Autodesk’s Pier 9 residency program with Noah Weinstein, Senior Creative Program Manager, alongside Forest Stearns and Anne Brown-Crawford, Chair of the California’s Statewide Arts Education Coalition. We perused laser cutters, 3D printers and scanners, and CNC machines, pondering the potential of these remarkable tools in the hands of artists.
On Friday, I met Mike Mongo, a space enthusiast and author of The Astronaut Instruction Manual, which prepares civilian space travelers. He was accompanied by leaders of Students for Exploration & Development of Space (SEDS), which empowers young people to participate and make an impact in space exploration.
Overall, I am surrounded by tools and resources for creative and professional development. It is beginning to sink in that the sky is NOT the limit, aim high and dream big! The future is coming—it feels like we are approaching a pinnacle of human expression, where art, technology and space collide!