International Space Art Network

Welcome to a place of vision and beauty. Welcome to the world of space art.

Arthur Woods has a unique approach to art. His creative work has liberated and elevated the medium of sculpture from Earth's gravity to realm of one in the curvature of spacetime. Let's have another look at his spaceart sculpture "Cosmic Dancer".

http://www.cosmicdancer.com/

--Kara

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I have always been somewhat less than impressed with Cosmic Dancer and perhaps even less impressed by much of the theory behind it. I think that too much of the interest in it lies in its novelty, when in fact, looked at objectively, it is really a rather mediocre artwork. The fact that it can bob around in free fall doesn't, in my opinion, make it any more significant than, say, a Calder mobile, which also works because it is free to move in three dimensions. Indeed, Cosmic Dancer doesn't absolutely need a space environment in order to work as designed: it would look exactly the same in an aircraft during a zero-g maneuver or dropped down an elevator shaft...or even underwater, for that matter, if the sculpture were to be cast in a neutral buoyancy material. One can even visualize a copy of the sculpture made of mylar, filled with helium and weighted so it would have neutral buoyancy inside my studio. It would move in a way identical to the one on board Mir. The point here is: if it would be impossible to tell from a video whether the sculpture was in fact in space, in an aircraft or in an earth-bound room, then any "significance" attached to it cannot be intrinsic, it is entirely superimposed by our preconceptions regarding where we think the sculpture really is (for example, the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo's David are not location-sensitive: they would convey the same meaning regardless of their venue). In that case, any object would serve the same purpose as Cosmic Dancer, whether it be a sculpture or a pair of pliers.
Whatever the true motivation and intention of the artist, it may not be necessarily limited to just the significance of the venue—being in space. It could be one aspect as was the motivation to incorporate movement, a dynamic quality, as an element of art.

It was an Italian group, the Futurists, who formed an art movement in the 1910s that called for art that would celebrate motion, speed, energy and daring. The gesture shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism but shall be the dynamic sensation itself.

Even the name “Cosmic Dancer” evokes movement; and as a sculpture, however it was constructed, made its impression with the elements of time and motion together. Aside from the novelty of being in space itself, “Cosmic Dancer” involves the viewer in the work in a fundamental way. Rather than move around a sculpture, the work is given a degree of freedom from gravity to dance before the viewer. Perhaps that experience may open up new horizons and/or interpretations as to the forms of creative possibilities in future space environments.
I'm afraid that stripped of its novelty---i.e., a freefall environment---"Cosmic Dancer" really is a pretty mediocre sculpture that I don't think would attract any attention at all under any other circumstances. Worse, for a work that's meant to work in a fully 3D environment, I don't think Woods took full advantage of that in its design. It's rather like my comments in one of the other ongoing forums, where I complained about the digital artists who think that simply because a computer cranked out an image it must be perfect. Woods seems to believe that simply because his sculpture is meant to float about in midair that this is somehow totally sufficient.

The only connection the sculpture has with space or the universe is its title---and I don't think the success of an artwork should depend on a label. Look at it this way. I suggested that the sculpture would look and act the same underwater or suspended in a magnetic field or even dropped down an elevator shaft. Since it could just as easily have been called "Underwater Dancer" or "Dropped Down an Elevator Shaft Dancer" its real connection to a space environment is tenuous at best.
Okay, having a brief discussion on that nature of space art sculpture, where do the artists of this genre see the status leaning? Is space art dead, or is there still hope for further development? Aside from 'What is Space Art', where do current space artists see this genre expanding, or is it? Has space art reached its peak--the golden era--and is now waning; or is it waxing? Is there still a future, expanding due to some implicit quintessence? Let's hear your thoughts...
Well - from my limited perspective (since I do very little magazine illustration, no commission work, and no book publishing) I perceive space and astronomical art to be in the very early stages of a burst of interest by segments of the fan/collector base.

There have to be hundreds - if not thousands - of would-be artists messing around with 'world-building' software plus computer-game workers and movie fans drooling at all the sfx stuff beginning to show up.

That - coupled with the significant happenings in our landing/exploring other worlds and moons - is bound to increase interest in space art itself. And if the few artists that rise to the top (above the thousands of 'would-be's' dependant on software to accomplish their art work) will not enjoy the pending demand - then I have missed the whole picture, so to speak!

Simply put - so many persons today are being exposed to such dramatic presentations of space-type happenings (astronomy, space ships, rovers, robots, and other things that were only in sci-fi novels a few years ago) - a (albeit small) percentage are going to find an interest in getting in on the 'ground-floor' of a 'new' art form that reflects their interests, hopes and dreams - Space Art!

Most of my own art is sold through galleries that had never displayed anything other than western, seashore, and cowboy art before - but now customers are interested in (and buying) space art! When the gallery owners convinced me to bring my stuff on-board a few years back I didn't give my space art a 1-in-10+ chance of catching on - but it seems to be moving up to somewhere among the top 5 art categories (in the galleries that I share with those other kinds of art).

I have sat in those galleries during open-house and watched the most unlikely viewers step up and put their money on the counter for space art! Anyway - right or wrong, I am busy as can be and barely keeping up - but I love every minute of it!

Just my 2-pence worth!

Regards - Frank H.
I just received a note from Arthur Woods complaining, with some justification, about my remarks regarding "Cosmic Dancer". He is quite right in that I perhaps overstepped some bounds in describing the work as "mediocre". I don't think that---as Arthur suggested---that I was offering an "unsolicited critique". What I was doing was responding to Kara's invitation to "have another look at [Woods'] spaceart sculpture 'Cosmic Dancer'." The opinions I offered are, I think, valid (and I tried to justify my reasoning). I certainly don't think I am "unqualified" to make them, as Arthur claims, though I don't know what he would accept in the way of qualifications. Nevertheless, whether my opinions are valid or not, I do apologize for the terms in which I expressed them, that was uncalled for.
Ron, you have some strong opinions on Arthur's work that I think are a bit too strongly stated. Arthur's Cosmic Dancer work, like many other early works in a field or genre is not perfect. I think the point is that he was striving to explore the unique environment of microgravity and had enough chutzpah to get the work on a space station. Like MANY works that I have put forth, I wish I could have done better or have anticipated an outcome or opportunity better. I personally not a great fan of non-objective sculpture and have therefore not developed the ability to evaluate it in the proper context. I think your work doesn't have much of this sort of work represented either. I'm pretty cautious in critiquing something that I don't understand fully. I know there is also some political wrangling going on between the abstract/non objective, the sci fi/fantasy and the astronomically accurate artists. With your stylus and paintbrush firmly planted in the latter, I think you are falling prey to a bit of this bias. I believe that if we don't try to create some unity among these groups we will be forever peripheral to the mainstream art community. Oops I gotta go, the shopkeeper needs her soapbox back.
You are absolutely right: I did express my thoughts in terms that were indiscreet at best and rude at worst. I've sent a separate apology to Arthur, which I hope he will accept.

Pat Rawlings said:
Ron, you have some strong opinions on Arthur's work that I think are a bit too strongly stated. Arthur's Cosmic Dancer work, like many other early works in a field or genre is not perfect. I think the point is that he was striving to explore the unique environment of microgravity and had enough chutzpah to get the work on a space station. Like MANY works that I have put forth, I wish I could have done better or have anticipated an outcome or opportunity better. I personally not a great fan of non-objective sculpture and have therefore not developed the ability to evaluate it in the proper context. I think your work doesn't have much of this sort of work represented either. I'm pretty cautious in critiquing something that I don't understand fully. I know there is also some political wrangling going on between the abstract/non objective, the sci fi/fantasy and the astronomically accurate artists. With your stylus and paintbrush firmly planted in the latter, I think you are falling prey to a bit of this bias. I believe that if we don't try to create some unity among these groups we will be forever peripheral to the mainstream art community. Oops I gotta go, the shopkeeper needs her soapbox back.
Since we're dealing with a certain kind or type of art--Space Art--let's get specific about the term "genre" and its meaning. Using literary roots, genre (i.e. poetry, prose, drama) and sub-genre (i.e. tragedy, comedy) are terms in the classification of types of literature. Members of a genre have common characteristics of style and organization and are found in similar cultural settings. In our case, there's a common curiosity with space exploration, our simultaneous awe of the grandeur of the universe and its corresponding affect on the human condition including space travel and habitation on other planets and eventually amongst the stars.

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