Science Saturday: The Art of Astrophysics
Updated: Feb 9, 2019
Much like our own world, the world of Chronsylvania is full of strange natural phenomena. Every week we'll highlight an article that explores the odd, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
This week's article (written by Written by Patrick Barkham; @patrick_barkham on Twitter) profiles British artist Katie Paterson and her astoundingly cosmologically-inspired artwork. People often describe powerful art as "out of this world," but Paterson takes that phrase to a whole different level. She doesn't simply use astrophysics as an inspiration for paintings. No, she purchases moon dust, grinds it up with a mortar and pestle, and blends it into her ink. She creates maps all of the dead stars in the universe. She collaborates with NASA to send meteorites back into space. None of the three previous sentences contain a hint of figurative lanuague. Paterson has literally done all three of those projects, among a multitidue of others.
Her art has been described as a juxtaposition of "the galactic and the mundane" which forces audiences to consider the beauty of existence and the stunning vastness of the universe. Through her art, presents the sheer enormity of space and time in terms that can make us humans feel dizzingly small.
For example, she created the Future Library. In 2014, she organized the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Norway. In each of the ensuing years between 2014 and 2114, an author (2014's author was Margaret Atwood) will write a book and donate it to the Library. These texts will remain unpublished until 2114, when the forest will be reaped. The collected books will then be published on paper made from the forest, long after Paterson and the projects original organizers have died. The scale of this project, both the space of the forest and the one hundred year time span, are meant to invite people to experience the project and marvel at its expansiveness.
Paterson first became fascinated with the physical science of our planet and universe when she was living in Northern Iceland, a location known for its geological beauty and clear views of the night sky. Ever since then, she has extensively researched scientific topics, using what she finds as a form to inform and shape her work. She frequently collaborates with scientists to create works that help us humans copmrehend the vastness of our physical reality and marvel at our place in within it, however small that place may be.
"Ultimately," she says, "we’re all drawn to the unspeakable wonder of everything.”
Creative Prompt: Take some inspiration from one of Katie Paterson's intriguing cosmological works of art and use her concept to create your own masterpiece.
1. Write a story or poem from the perspective of a meteorite who has landed on earth and wants nothing more than to get back to outer space.
2. Write a description of the smell of Saturn's moons.
3. Draw a map of all the known dead stars in the universe.
4. Write or draw about any of the following phrases:
🖊“A foghorn set off at sea every time a star dies”;
🖊“A wave machine hidden inside the sea”
🖊“Venus’s sky recreated on Earth”
🖊“A mountain carried away stone by stone”
Share your writing and art with us on Twitter and Instagram @lumberjacksonco or you can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to broadcast your writing and art to the world via our website and social media channels. If you want us to publish your work, simply include a brief message that reads, “Okay to publish.”
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Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday with a brand new page.