April 13, 2004

Some Mars Magic Here On Earth

Filed under: Art and About Nature — admin @ 3:09 pm

For some reason, it wasn’t big news a couple of weeks ago when NASA approved a five-month extended mission for the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. It was big news for me. I had been dreading the end of the supply of those breathtaking images that Spirit and Opportunity share with those of us Earthbound life forms.

I love Mars. Not the Roman god, or the science fiction imaginings, but the actual planet of Mars. From the first time I studied the planets in elementary school, there was something about Mars that intrigued me. It is surreal yet real, and getting more real all the time with NASA programs like the Mars Exploration Rovers.

My brain has trouble comprehending that the rover images are photographs, and not artists’ renditions of Earth’s sister planet. Each photo reads more to me like a landscape painting, familiar yet foreign. Something conjured by the Great Artist in the Sky during his/her Red Period. This art has been locked in the galactic basement for billions of years, and now the lenses of Opportunity and Spirit have found the key.

I generally respond to photos from space as if they were products of imagination rather than factual documentation. I know artists here on Earth are always seeing this planet’s beauty as inspiration for art. I appreciate natural beauty, even comment on it occasionally, but I am never compelled to paint it, and rarely do I pull out the camera to capture it.

I wonder if when my artistic fancy is captured by Mars or stars or quasars, that maybe I’m feeling a bit of what it is like to look at nature closer to home when viewed through the eyes of a landscape painter, or a nature photographer or a cinematographer? It’s exciting for me to think I might be able to see like one of these artists, even if it’s only through a pioneering robot’s lens.

Sometimes I find myself staring into the eyes of artists, wondering what it is like to see the world their way. I only have my own eyes, and they see the world mostly in verbiage. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to walk into an unfinished room and see it finished, as an interior designer would? I am awed by how an architect can look at a piece of land and see a structure. How Picasso’s brain made the leap to cubism blows my mind. Did M.C. Escher see his spatial illusions before he drew them? And if he did, how did he do that?

Sculptors in any medium amaze me. Somehow, their brains communicate with their hands, which magically transform clay or metal or popsicle sticks. People who design clothes are demigods. Sure, I can physically do the act of sewing, but to look at the human body and a bolt of fabric and create a garment more complex than a hole cut in the top of a sheet is a miracle.

And other people’s ears are incredible, too. I hear tale that some folks can listen to a bird singing, or the rhythm of the washing machine and create a song. Some composers see sunrises and translate that to sound. Others read a poem and hear music to marry with it.
Chefs smell and taste to create culinary art. Hair stylists feel the texture and thickness of hair and see a cut that complements the owner of the mane. Artistic sensibility has infinite variants in each individual.

Perhaps I don’t have to look to Mars to appreciate the beauty of the otherworldly.