This series of works, titled Orbital Mechanics, explores a fundamental question of mankind: where are we? Where are we on this earth? In this solar system? And now, with the advent of better telescopes, where are we in this galaxy? From ancient astronomers, to Nicolaus Copernicus, to Galileo Galilei, and continuing on, people have contemplated these questions, sometimes at great peril to themselves. Knowledge of place is fundamental to the paradigm of power in religion and politics. Knowing where one is located can shift one’s perspective and understanding, and can shift the balance of power.
If you have a geocentric view of the universe, then the earth is the most important place in the universe. And if, for example, one decided that Italy was the most important region on earth, and one considered Rome the most important place in Italy, and the Pope the most important person in Rome, then theorizing that the center of the universe was anywhere else, challenged power and became a dangerous idea. This challenged the principle that power could be constructed on the basis of selective facts, and not on scientific observation and reason.
We are in a new age of enlightenment, where it is now harder to contradict scientific observations and discoveries. In the field of astronomy, with the advent of space-based telescopes, our understanding of place has grown exponentially, and our significance in the universe has inversely diminished. And still, people want to know, where are we?
One of the areas of keen interest is the center of our own galaxy, where a supermassive black hole resides, orbited by many stars. The gravitational field is so massive, that time and space are distorted – a concept we don’t fully understand. In researching our galactic center, I have begun to think about some of these larger associated issues, such as the impact of knowledge of place.
In this series, I have drawn elliptical shapes that represent the paths of the closest stars orbiting the supermassive black hole that resides at the center of our galaxy 26,000 light years away. These works are based on a 3D mathematical model made from the data collected from several telescopes over 10 years. Although my works are data-driven, their apparent abstraction is inspired in part by the Constructivist Movement, with its vocabulary of geometry, proportion, and optical play. This is a theme that runs through much of my work.
Some of the techniques used in these two works include the use of carefully controlled small brushes guided by strings to mathematically describe each ellipse, and a technique using India ink to paint the lines that trace the orbits in a looser, more energetic way. Because of the colloidal suspension properties of the ink, when the ink is applied in a flooded state, the pigment particles migrate outward, indicating an internal repellent energy within the ink. The result in the artwork, evokes some of the fundamental energy I am trying to convey, that exists everywhere and, in this particular case, at the center of our galaxy.
This work is an off-shoot of my other works based on the soon to be launched NASA James Webb Space Telescope.
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