Space Art Blasts Off Around the World

I'm a retired photo editor and an active artist, and I've long been a fan of spaceflight. I witnessed my first space launch at Cape Canaveral — a shuttle mission — in 1984. The next year, I went to Baikonur in the Soviet Union to watch another liftoff. By the time I had seen several more, including a French Ariane rocket launch at Korou, in French Guiana, I was well and truly hooked. The power and beauty of these machines as they thundered skyward impressed me deeply, and I resolved to participate in the spaceflight adventure in my own way.

In the course of my travels, I noticed that artists in many countries were captivated by the images of humans venturing into space — and sometimes by the idea of benevolent beings from other worlds visiting earth. Their works, often whimsical, always intriguing, were irresistible, and I began to collect them.

Artists of other ages reflected and interpreted the world they lived in. But with the exception of a few astronaut and cosmonaut artists, no present-day artist has been in space. At best, their experience of space travel comes from television, photographs, films and books, even word of mouth.

But their work makes up in imagination what it lacks in realism. In his Village Visitors, Texan Joe McAlister depicted happy aliens in paint and tin. On the other side of the world, Wonder Mutorera, a wood-carver from Zimbabwe, had never seen even a photograph of a space vehicle; for S.O.S., he invented one that closely resembles a giant, distressed beetle flying over an African village. Carolyn Lloyd Swain, of Virginia, used wood and acrylics to create Heaven Bound (left) — with astronaut as angel — her tribute to those who have lost their lives in space.

The vision of most of these artists reflects their desire to rise above the plain facts of their lives here on earth. My contact with them, through their fanciful works, enables me to share their vision, to accompany them on this journey.

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