March 1st, 2010 | No Comments
I learned today that legendary space artist Robert McCall passed away, on Friday, February 26, at the age of 90.
Robert McCall, painting a mural at a NASA center. Credit: NASA
To many, McCall was known as the artist who painted the poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Others knew him as one of the great painters of the NASA program, from the 1960s onward.
I had the pleasure of viewing McCall’s 2008 show, Imagination Unbound, at the the University of Arizona Museum of Art. I keep a copy of the promotional flier for the show on the wall of my studio, by the door. I see it practically every day, and it helps to set the tone for the art I enjoy making so much.
I have been moved by Robert McCall’s bold vision for the future, as well as his precise rendering of concepts and environments that are so challenging to imagine. What’s more, I can never get enough of looking at his work. Especially in his most imaginative works, there’s always something new to see.
Robert McCall was one of the people that made Arizona great. Knowing that he lived here, just miles away, made me feel better about living here. I am thankful that he so generously donated many of his works to the University of Arizona Museum of Art Visual Arts Archive.
Thank you for inspiring me, Robert McCall. We will miss you.
— Grant Wiggins
Below: Fantasia with 23rd Century Megastructures, a 2006 painting I made that was inspired, in part, by Robert McCall.
March 15th, 2008 | 2 Comments
I have my mind set on a new series of paintings, a series of “space loops.” The original concept for this series entered my mind in December 2006. I produced one study, but shelved the idea. The painting FF0000uturo took its place.
Now the loops are back. Below are just a few sketches. The color combinations are seemingly infinite. But that’s what makes this a series.
As I think about it, the loops kind of remind me of the space colony illustrations that NASA produced in the 1970s, as shown at right. Those space art images captivated me as a kid! People living inside giant cellophane tires filled with synthetic rivers and forests … and weirdo architecture! But the space loop composition arose independently of those; I mean, I didn’t have them in mind as I was geeking out the sketches. Guess I’ve been carrying those glorious illustrations around in my unconscious for years.
On that note, speaking of loops, I bumped into a great-looking book last night titled I Am A Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter. It’s exactly about what I’ve been studying lately: the notion of self. When we refer to ourselves as “I,” what do we mean?
Lastly, yesterday on Science Friday there was a panel discussion about utility-scale solar power projects in Nevada and Arizona, which have the potential to meet all of United States’ electricity needs. The idea is this: Utility companies would shoulder the burden of investing in, and producing, large-scale solar farms out in the desert — instead of homeowners having solar panels on their rooftops. The discussion of utility-scale solar was introduced as if it were such a novel, new idea. But this morning I bumped into a speech that Isaac Asimov wrote 30 years ago, titled “Our Future in the Cosmos: Space,” in which he wrote: “If we could get millions of photovoltaic cells (a kind of silicon cell that sets up a small electric current when exposed to light) and stretch them over half of Arizona (I only mention Arizona because there is usually a lot of sunshine there), we could perhaps supply enough energy for America’s needs.”
April 17th, 2007 | No Comments
The recent passing of Kurt Vonnegut really saddened me. His passing has afforded me an opportunity to gain a new appreciation for the contribution Vonnegut made to literature, and my own thinking.
Kurt Vonnegut had a profound gift for portraying the folly of the human condition, but he made light of things. He opened the door to all sorts of outré subjects — other dimensions, robots, and time travel — and tied them all back to everyday life.
Personally, I think the names he dreamt up for his characters — like the Trafalmadoreans — helped guide me to use made-up language in my early pop art paintings.
To create a fitting Kurt Vonnegut tribute of my own, over the last couple of days I’ve been listening to an audio book of Breakfast of Champions as I’ve been painting. Breakfast of Champions is my favorite Vonnegut book. I hadn’t read it in over a decade, and kind of forgot how grim — and rightfully so — it can be.
Earth is a pretty messed up place, for sure. But what a strange, wonderful and funny book it is! The plot summaries of Kilgore Trout’s science fiction books, which pepper Breakfast of Champions, are utterly too hilarious.
Thank you, Kurt Vonnegut. And so it goes.
New studio pics: Below is recent progress I’ve made on Like Antique Shopping 100 Years from Now. I started it about a month ago in my home art studio, but took a three-week break from it. Now I’m filling in the background pattern, and relatively pleased with the results. It’s pretty hard to look at, in a good way.