THE LONG VIEW
Background. This week we published a paper that maps our home supercluster of galaxies, named Laniakea (from the Hawaiian words lani, meaning heaven, and akea, meaning spacious or immeasurable). The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and maps our home supercluster.
(For an excellent animated explanation, see this fab video.)
Design challenge. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data Fig 3 (second image). There are several key elements to the figure: the rainbow colour scale indicates density (with high density regions in green and red, and low density in blue); velocity flow streams are indicated by the blue and white lines; and the orange band indicates the border of the Laniakea supercluster.
While these visual elements combine to make a very informative figure, I felt that we should create something fresh for the cover that would appeal to a wider audience. Working closely with authors Brent Tully and Daniel Pomarede, we requested a few modifications from which we could build a striking artist conception based on their data.
We initially requested an image from Pomarede that shifted the rainbow density scale to a single dark gradient (bottom image), to more clearly put the scene in space. We took that information and gave it to artist Mark A. Garlick, who polished the image and changed the Laniakea velocity flow streams to a warm glowing colour that would be instantly recognised as light from the many galaxies in the cluster. We also removed the orange line that indicated the Laniakea border and replaced it with a more subtle approach, giving the supercluster a clear shape and with a visible border but in a layered, translucent style.
And finally, we decided to locate ourselves on the map with some fun language (‘you are here’) to draw readers in and inspire a bit of awe.
Studio Visit with Graham Day Guerra
Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York
Readers will recognize Guerra’s earlier series works that include Athlete Ascension, Virgin Assumption and Alpha and Omega which capture a conglomeration of athletic bodies suspended above stadiums and other industrial spaces. These masses of human bodies were composed initially using digital 3D technology software, then rendered on paper by hand in graphite and charcoal.
Graham Guerra: I grew up Catholic; looking at images of saints ascending, or Jesus on the cross. As a consequence, I grew very fond of the aesthetic representation of the human body.
Another part of my inspiration for this period of work also came from Leni Riefenstahl’s film, Olympia and her aestheticization of the human body. In Olympia, the human body is represented in the same way minus the cherubs and the garb of the Mary and the saints, the blood, etc.
I think of the bodies in my work as a modern representation of the idolised religious mythic quality that Riefenstahl imbued into the bodies of the athletes in her films. Also, the modern day stadium as akin to the space where people experienced religious fervour in the past.
I never felt that religious fervor but I have felt that there is something similar in experience of the stadium at night.
iheartmyart: I can see what you mean. In the modern day sporting events, that take place in stadiums like the one that you have depicted in your work, there is typically that hole in the ceiling where a figure could be raised up to the sky. Similar to the way we metaphorically raise the sport players up to this same deity status of celebrity.
The work I see around the studio is a bit different. Tell us about some of these pieces.
Graham Guerra: Some of my recent work layers architectural floor plans of religious spaces with scientific illustrations from educational text books.
I wanted to use these illustrations in ways that they were never intended to use. I like the idea that art makes a mess of things and can be used to aestheticize things. They don’t have to be right. They can be totally wrong.
iheartmyart: In some ways, it is the modern experience of being an adult. Where we have to shift through concepts and have to formulate our subjective opinion.
Do you feel like this work was influence by your teaching?
Graham Guerra: Maybe a little bit. But more just how I reflect upon my own learning or mislearning. I was very interested in science as a kid. I would have been a scientist if i hadn’t gone into the arts. Both my grandfather and father were scientists.
Most recently, I have been doing the same layering of the illustrations but moving away from the high contrast. I have been creating works with gold leaf and exploring the role that the patina places in portraying the effects of time.
iheartmyart: Were you concerned with the contrast because you felt that within the layering that some meaning was being lost?
Graham Guerra: In the end, I think when making artwork, as much as one might like to control it, so much of the learning comes from making stuff with your hands. I knew I wanted it to be different that the previous pieces.
Many times, I think about materials as metaphor. My criteria for particular works is, what type of relationship do these materials have with the subject matter? In the case of these pieces, I was thinking about carbon as the basic building block of organic life. A lot of these things have to do with the human body as the starting point for different measurement systems. You can see this one pieces it starts off with architecture and moves up to the solar system; this other piece shows the scales of the human body, moving from Vitruvian man, carbon atom, an animal cell and different shakras.
The most recent pieces are related to the organic natural of things and I used silver to achieve something more elemental in the material. I am experimenting with that now.
iheartmyart: Thank you for sharing.
If you would like iheartmyart to visit your studio, please contact us.
Supernova remnants imaged with the Chandra X-Ray space telescope.
Flying around the epicenter.