The art of space in Second Life

Spindrift Art Gallery

As is undoubtedly obvious to regular readers, I’m a bit of a space fan – astronomy, space flight, science fiction – but I have to confess that until recently, I’d never actually written about the Spindrift Space Gallery in Second Life.  In fact, until I was talking to Pooky Amsterdam about the special edition of The 1st Question event honouring Paradox Olbers (see: The 1st Question in Second Life (with Ebbe Altberg)), the gallery had completely fallen off my radar – so I thought it time I returned for another visit.

The gallery was established by Paradox in (I believe) 2007, and features the work of artists from the Intentional Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA), including pieces by Kara Szathmáry, the IAAA’s Vice Prresident and CFO-Treasurer.

Spindrift Art Gallery

As the IAAA notes, art has always held a special place in the history of exploration. Artists often accompanied explorers on their journeys, providing paintings and sketches that would later enthral audience on their intrepid return. Some actually financed their own expeditions to “far-away” lands: south America, the Middle East, the Orient – specifically to paint those distant “worlds” and present them to patrons and audiences. In the 1870s, American artist Frederic Edwin Church perhaps became one of the first “space artists” of the modern era when he went to the Arctic regions to specifically paint the northern aurora as well as the icebergs of the Arctic Sea.

That tradition of art accompanying exploration has very much been a part of the space age. While artists cannot physically travel into the solar system or outer space, they can offer images of the Final Frontier, bringing us images of the fantastic – interplanetary space ships, future civilisations, alien worlds and so on, as well as realistic portrayals of the possibilities of planetary exploration, the worlds of our solar system and those we’ve detected around other stars but have yet to see through our own eyes or those of our robot emissaries. And of course, art has also given life to the imaginings of science fiction authors.

Spindrift Art Gallery: Rick Sternbach

All of this is reflected at the Spindrift Space Gallery. It features images by George Richard, Ron Miller, the inimitable Rick Sternbach, perhaps most famous for his work in connection with the Star Trek franchise from The Next Generation through Star Trek Voyager, in which his designs, images and conceptual art helped shape our view of the 24th century.

Also featured is the art of the aforementioned Kara Szathmáry, with a stunning series of pieces that reflect our unique relationship with the cosmos that has existed throughout history: stars that helped us navigate the oceans (Arrival), played a role in beliefs and cycles of life and even romance (Grandfather’s Spirit – Rolling Thunder, If Not for You), and that our voyages into space are, at their heart a very human undertaking: inspirational, emotional and, for families left behind, worrisome (In Pursuit of Paradise, Bon Voyage).

Spindrift Art Gallery: Kara Szathmáry

An exhibition of work by Steve Hobbs  presents marvellous images of our solar system and explorations within it: Huygens descending through Titan’s atmosphere, Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft at asteroid 25143 Itokawa, Voyager 2 at Uranus and Neptune, the Russian Luna 16 sample return mission and more, as well as views of of the planets and moons of the solar system. Another panel provides a tribute to the writings of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, including a rather Robert Redford like interpretation of Alvin, the protagonist of Against the Fall of Night.

From science fiction to science fact by way of astronomy the Spindrift Space Gallery offer a unique, static exhibition of space art and a little slice of SL history.

Spindrift Art Gallery: Rick Sternbach

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