Nothing holds so much promise as the future, and over the past century few organisations have done a better job of packaging and selling the future as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration whose vision sold a nation on the insane promise of sending humans to the Moon and probes to the outer planets and beyond.
Key in the engagement of a public perhaps uncomfortable with the challenging mathematical and engineering concepts or the scientific gains from these endeavours was the presentation of the missions, often accomplished through artwork, simple, accessible, easily understood and disseminated in magazines, newspapers and classrooms, three of the creators of which are celebrated in Artist Depiction.
Funded by an Indiegogo campaign and with its UK premiere at the Sci-Fi London film festival, the three artists who provide their “oral history” are Don Davis and Rick Guidice who each created art for NASA for over forty years and multi-disciplinary artist Charles Lindsay who founded the SETI Institute’s Artists in Residence programme.
Each artist the subject of an extended interview as they discuss their inspirations, their work and their contributions, there are also copious presentations of their work, both “in progress” sketches and finished artworks, many of which will be familiar to any who have ever had even a passing interest in the exploration of the solar system and the stars.
Hugely ambitious and yet seemingly achievable, astonishing yet comforting, both Davis and Guidice worked alongside Gerard O’Neill in the mid-seventies to design hypothetical space colonies whose inner workings were meticulously considered and calculated, conceived to be practical possibilities within a generation with the extrapolation of existing technologies, a closed yet fully functioning ecosystem in orbit.
Mentored by the great Chesley Bonestell who saw him as “a young artist he found promising,” Davis recalls him emphasising the need to master basic techniques such as perspective, understanding that the fantastic had to be grounded in the real if the viewer were to be convinced that the subject depicted could be achieved, and Davis would later collaborate with Carl Sagan on several projects including the wraparound cover for the Pulitzer prize winning Dragons of Eden.
Guidice feeling that “Robert McCall was the standard to achieve,” his work is also grounded in the practical, depicting Voyager’s gravitational slingshot around Jupiter and the capture of asteroids for mining, while former photojournalist Lindsay’s interests are more esoteric, interested in art installations on subjects such as interspecies communication which aim to achieve “spontaneous comprehension,” something he feels art can facilitate better than hard science.
The subjects all enthusiastic, knowledgeable and personable, uncompromised optimists who truly believe in the practical application of their dreams and eager to share the possibilities of humanity in space, Artist Depiction is presented as a feature documentary but is a composite of three shorter pieces and as such the format is repetitive, but the beautifully crafted works are sufficient compensation to make any structural shortcomings bearable.
Artist Depiction had its UK premiere at the Sci-Fi London film festival on 19th May