LIVING COSMOS

Commissioned for Astronomer and Author Chris Impey

oil on panel, etched glass and mixed media
13.75” x 18.5” x  3.5” each
2006-2007

These pieces were created to encapsulate each of the seven chapters in astronomer Chris Impey’s book The Living Cosmos. The pieces can be viewed in any order; motifs recur and build on one another. Each is rooted in a theme, yet they are interconnected.
Living organisms are poised near the logarithmic center of a range of scales from the nucleus of an atom to the grandeur of a spiral galaxy. We struggle to understand the universe of which we are but a microscopic part, yet are amazed that comprehension is possible at all. We are surrounded by horizons and boundaries, yet some are as illusory as the limits we place on our imaginations. Protean forms of nature—from stars and planets, to crystals, fossils, and the delicate double helix of DNA—are the grist of scientific explanation, and of dreams. They inhabit both the physical and the metaphoric world.


The materials were carefully chosen to represent physical and metaphorical properties. The sinuous molecules that bind pigments in oil paint are similar to those that beaded up in Earth’s primeval oceans to form the first cell. Glass is a translucent form of sand and it comprises the bulk of the Earth and of a myriad of Earth-like planets across the galaxy. Metal is a relic of supernovae, the fiery stellar cataclysms that also enable biology by forging and ejecting life’s elements. Wood and paper are among the means by which former living things are brought into our service, creating an indirect homage to carbon and biology.