Kara Szathmary – Visions of Space: Artists & Journey through the Cosmos – 2005

IAAA President & Chairman of the Board of Trustees

First publication workshop The Impact of Space on Society: Cultural Aspects, in
collaboration with IAA and Millenaris, Budapest, 2005

I am the president and leader of 180 of the planet’s foremost astronomical artists of the genre: SPACE ART.

Let’s begin from the artist’s studio…

Botanical artists hang out at local gardens, or – if highly motivated – travel to depict flora in their natural habitat. Wildlife artists journey to Yellowstone or the Rocky Mountains to hone their skills. But what’s a space artist to do?

The farthest humans have ventured is to the Moon; but, astronomical art calls for artistic voyages to the frigid moons of Jupiter or even desolate landscapes of planets circling other stars. The challenge of traveling to planets presents some horrific travel expenses!

Instead, space artists must study geology of the Earth and other worlds, find terrain that bears similarity to the geology of Mars, Venus or a host of other targets. If geo-physics is the same everywhere in our universe as the laws of physics currently imply, then landscape artists have the opportunity to travel to locations on Earth where cosmonauts and astronauts rehearse for extraterrestrial space exploration.

Artists assist scientists and engineers through their accurate visualization of extraterrestrial landscapes. This is certainly one consistent and traditional and historic avenue of Space Art.

Space Art would seem to be the new kid on the artist’s block in the Thematism of the late 20th Century art, but it has its roots buried deep in history.

The process of painting a scene or object, which no one has seen first hand, is a process that reaches far into the past. Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) did one of his first Renaissance illustrations of a rhinoceros, and at the time the creature had not been seen by anyone in northern Germany. The naturalist Valentin Ferdinand saw one at the Royal Zoo in Lisbon. He sent a description and a rough sketch to Durer, who made a detailed ink drawing – and a woodcut later – based on the scant information. Explorers throughout the ages have brought artists along to document discoveries and foreign vistas; these include drawing and painting on location, rather than relying on the fiction or fantasy of pure imagination.

Indeed, artists have been at the forefront of space exploration since its beginnings. For almost 25 years the International Association of Astronomical Artists has brought together the world’s foremost artists in the field of astronomical art on a regular basis to recognize the accomplishments of their peers, to provide direction, guidance, and stimulation for the artistic exploration of the cosmos by its membership; and, to share the beauty and imagination of space exploration with the general public.

Today we have new kinds of explorers, venturing into a new vast frontier studded with burning stars, spinning worlds and swirling galaxies. Some explorers wear space suits, while others wear solar cells and foil. They all return from their travels, and it is the artist who must translate these tales into something on a human – and aesthetic scale. Vast amounts of data are returning to Earth from space exploration.

Space Art is a visualization, a component of which would include what we could expect to be “out there” in a space environment. Today, we stand at a crucial stage in the beginning of a new millennium. The period between 1957 and 1991 saw the dawn of the space age with flights to the planets, footprints on the Moon, and global communications. As artists, in the media of our choice, we are creating and are focused on the impact of the space era onto human culture as a genre.

The IAAA is a band of artists bent with a passion to document the visualization of an Einsteinian perspective, the new paradigm, that scientists use to make sense of the terrestrial world, the solar system habitat, the nearby neighborhood of our Milky Way Galaxy and outward to New Worlds. Outward and outward to cosmological scales including the conceptual voyage to the Planck Scale, beginning with Einstein’s photon, then anti-particles and quantum fields and inward to superstrings and membranes of space-time – the unity of all fundamental forces that generate the froth of matter, energy and the dimensions of this APPARENT universe at large.

It is the public purse that provides funding: finance, education, research and development, and space exploration. The public has generally no interest in data, columns and rows of numbers, nor symbols that are more hieroglyphics than substance.

Yet society wonders – What does it look like? How is it different from where I am? What might be the human condition in space, on other planets, or perhaps eventually around nearby stars? Traditions of Space Art parallel other genres and movements in the history of natural science illustrations. While space subjects are more difficult to paint first-hand than are other natural subjects, artists continue to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of this world, creating views of other planets that await future generations of artists who will actually paint there.

This societal wonder is a powerful motivation for artists, who also share a passion for astronomy, geology, fossil records, physics, space sciences, alien worlds et cetera. What about the rest of humanity? Where are we? How are we? What are we? Why are we? The wonder breeds an existential dilemma. As a genre, Space Art is helping answer all of these questions, as a telescope for society.

We reside on ancestral Earth, but it is the artist who is visually transporting us toward the new and exciting worlds of the cosmos.

This is our vision, the IAAA’s space activity that is impacting society.

And now we return to our Earthly studios. Thank you! It has been my pleasure to share our passion and creative love with you.

Books and Journal articles:

David A Hardy

1) Futures: 50 Years in Space – Challenge of the Stars
2) Visions of Space: Artists’ Journey through the Cosmos

Michael Carroll
Bring Out-of-this-world Art Down to Earth
(Guild of Natural Science Illustrators’ Journal) intention play the important part to generate the new consciousness and transfer it to the next generation.

© Kara SZATHMARY & Leonardo/Olats, mars 2005 / republished 2023