— JFK, 1961
Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
The works from the Apollo series are based on the imagery of the early space program and follow my continuing investigation of our relationship to the natural world. Like many of us, my fascination with space exploration started as a child looking at images and ephemera presented at institutions like the Air and Space Museum in DC. I remember these initial experiences vividly and recall the profound sense of wonder that comes from considering the vastness of the unexplored and witnessing the otherness of what has been successfully explored. We’re living in an exciting time for space exploration. NASA’s Orion mission to Mars and the private sector’s strides towards the reality of civilian space travel are part of a very different climate than the Cold-War-era Apollo program.
Reflecting on the origins of manned space flight, I became very interested in the symbolic influence of the early space race imagery. The Apollo media machine was responding to a moment of national hysteria about the nuclear arms race. What came from that narrative was the iconic American story of progress, exploration, and adventure that moved us from fear to optimism.
I’m interested in the power of imagery to re-shape American consciousness. There’s a correlation between art-making and nation building, and since our country was born, we’ve utilized the frontier and as a way to justify imperialism, from Manifest Destiny to modernity. Boundlessness and the unknown have always been a screen onto which we can project an idea of the great pioneering hero within all of us. I think that’s why kids respond so strongly to stories about cowboys and astronauts. It’s a moment in life when everything seems possible; our imaginations are primed to personalize the heroic, which is a powerful way for a child to think. These ideas ultimately led me to want to take back a bit of what I feel is rightfully mine as a global citizen and somehow democratize the ownership. I wanted to de-familiarize the iconography and handle the raw material in a way that made it feel new and somehow undiscovered again.
While browsing an obscure auction of space artifacts I came across a canister containing a lunar mapping negative. I acquired it, brought it to the studio, built a rig to clean and photograph the oversized negative, and reconstructed the hundreds of single images into a seamless cosmic field. After creating a number of Lunar Maps I began purchasing duplicate Apollo negatives, photographing them, and reconstructing them digitally.