Starstruck at Bates…
Starstruck – The Fine Art of Astrophotography, currently on exhibit at Bates College Museum of Art, is actually about the relationship of the camera to astronomy more than anything else. Perhaps if the subtitle of the exhibit had been omitted from the beginning, less effort would be expended debating how many of the images in this exhibit are actually fine art and how many are science. For Bates College is an educational mecca and has no need to apologize for an exhibit such as this in its art museum.
Starstruck is the brainchild of Curator of Education Anthony Shostak and he generously gives much of the credit for its success to others, but without some seriously determined leadership, an exhibit of this magnitude could not happen in Maine. Thirty-five photographers from all over the world, including five who live in Maine (Jim Nickelson whose work is represented by VoxPhotographs has the honor of having work included), are represented by over 100 images – and I have a feeling Anthony may have had a few sleepless nights from the moment of inspiration to June 9 when the exhibit opened to the public.
The images on view were created by artists and scientists, professionals and amateurs in both fields. The works are thoroughly explained on accompanying cards of course, and the gorgeous catalog is a work of art in itself. You could get a bit spacey yourself, though, if you attempt to absorb everything – visual and informational – in one go.
So here’s what I would suggest:
1) for your first time at the exhibit (and it’s open through Dec. 15/12), initially focus all your brainpower on the aesthetics of all the images, paying little attention to what or where they are.
2) Then, take another tour and stop at the works which intensely interest you and read the info. card.
3) Buy the catalog, read the terrific essays, review the works therein at your leisure, and
4) load up the car with friends and head back for a second visit. You’ll see it all in a whole new way.
Lucky for me, I hosted a Salon at VoxPhotographs a couple of days ago, and Anthony Shostak gave a terrific lecture on many of the works and genres represented. I felt an excitement build in me as I listened to make another trip to the exhibit and soon. It’s impossible to imagine people actually creating some of the images – one consists of over 37,000 photographs, another took two years to make, another 100 hours over months, etc…I’m deeply impressed with that level of passion. There are some terrific stories behind the exhibited works and I would strongly suggest you make an appointment with Anthony (firstname.lastname@example.org) to view the exhibit with him at some point. Just understanding the impact of changing technology on astrophotography over the decades, for example, gives a whole new perspective to viewing the exhibit.
Photographers have been taking pictures of the stars and night skies since photography took root, and three of Alfred Stieglitz’s works are on loan to the exhibit from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. I wish there were more room for historic images in the genre – I think it would have added a valuable aesthetic layer to the exhibit.
The other thing I wish is there were just a few fewer constellation/galaxy type images and more, well, “earth-connected” works like one of my favorite images exhibited “Rio Moonset” by Babak A. Tafreshi (Iran) below. If you are not educated in astronomy, these constellation-type photographs can be a bit numbing and I think the exhibit is a bit lop-sided in this regard. Those with a better scientific understanding than my ninth grade level of science education allows may disagree, but here’s where I would have said: “more art and less science, please!”.
Here’s a link to a cool video about the exhibition: http://vimeo.com/36163736. But leave the car running in the driveway, because once you’ve finished watching it, you’ll be on your way to Lewiston.