Kevin M. Gill’s Io, Satellite of Jupiter
Kevin M. Gill’s Io, Satellite of Jupiter

feature / exhibitions
July 09, 2018
By Teri Bond

Astronomy Fans Go Cosmic

ArtCenter and Caltech Scientists Unite for Space Discovery at AstroFest

For more than 100 years, brainy residents in Pasadena—named by civic leaders as the “City of Astronomy”—have fueled tons of scientific innovation.

And that’s why almost a dozen Pasadena organizations and institutions—part of a City of Astronomy initiative—have organized AstroFest, a star-studded citywide celebration of space exploration, science, art, technology and culture that kicks off on Saturday, July 14, and runs through July 21. The week includes a slew of family-friendly fun and free events planned to build enthusiasm and raise awareness about space discoveries.

Steve Roden
Steve Roden’s when stars become words (score) is watercolor pencil and colored pencil on 100-year-old musical manuscript paper.
Tim Hawkinson
Tim Hawkinson’s Thumbsucker
Jacqueline Woods
Jacqueline Woods’ Raising the Tides

ArtCenter is a partner in the initiative with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Carnegie Observatories, Giant Magellan Telescope, Caltech's science and data center for astronomy (IPAC), Kidspace Children’s Museum, Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena City College, The Planetary Society and Thirty Meter Telescope.

The city has also scored a major coup to attract the prestigious international Committee On Space Research (COSPAR). Members will gather to convene their 42nd Scientific Assembly at the Pasadena Convention Center during AstroFest.

Researchers will take a break from deep discussions to ponder MOONS, an exhibition at the intersection of art and science for fans of the celestial at ArtCenter’s Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery. Shuttle buses will transport the visiting scientists from Old Pasadena up to the Hillside Campus for the MOONS opening reception on Thursday, July 19. The reception, from 7 to 10 p.m., is free and open to the public.

"Celestial bodies tethered by orbital physics to our solar system’s planets, commonly known as moons, comprise a consortium of enticing worlds that are rocky, wet, icy, cratered, hot, cold, and puzzling,” says exhibition curator Stephen Nowlin. “Such objects lead us to both the poetics and the disruptions ignited by an age-old urge to ponder reality beyond the single planet in which we are cradled."

“We’re pleased to have ArtCenter and the Williamson Gallery join the City of Astronomy partnership, particularly this year, when the occasion of COSPAR provides an opportunity for us to share the wonders of the universe with the public during AstroFest,” says Janice Lee, a Caltech/IPAC astronomer, and a lead organizer of the events. “The gallery’s exhibitions fusing astronomy with contemporary art present new perspectives on how science inspires curiosity, imagination, and unorthodox thinking,” adds Sabrina Stierwalt, a Caltech/IPAC astronomer and AstroFest co-organizer.

Thinking differently is what German art duo Nadine Schlieper and Robert Pufleb of Alternative Moons do best. The two were making pancakes when they realized the bubbling batter resemble the surface of our moon. Their photos of those moon-like pancakes appear in MOONS.

Sarah Perry’s <em>Impossible Gift
Sarah Perry’s Impossible Gift
The title frame of <em>A Trip to the Moon</em>, a 1902 silent film by George Melies.
The title frame of A Trip to the Moon, a 1902 silent film by George Melies.

“Their work speaks to our generic stereotype of a moon,” say Nowlin. “And while we marvel at their joke of how a modest pancake can appear so much like a massive celestial body, the true irony of their wit is that popular culture doesn't really know what a moon looks like, except provincially. The recent discoveries of science have not yet fully, or even partially, sunk in. In part, that’s what the entire exhibition is about.”

Other artists and sources contributing to the MOONS exhibition include Carnegie Observatories, Caltech Archives, Kevin Gill, James Griffith, Tim Hawkinson, The Huntington Library, Melanie King, Sarah Perry, Steve Roden, Karley Sullivan, Penelope Umbrico, Mount Wilson Observatory and Jacqueline Woods.