Artists of all kinds were invited to apply for the chance to visit our Goddard Space Flight Center to be inspired by the giant, golden, fully-assembled James Webb Space Telescope mirror. Webb has a mirror that is nearly 22 feet high and (to optimize it for infrared observations) is covered in a microscopic layer of actual gold. Because of Webb’s visually striking appearance, the project hosted a special viewing event on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.
There was an overwhelming response to the event invitation and ultimately twenty-four people were selected to attend. They represented a broad range of artistic media and styles, including: watercolor, 3D printed sculpture, silk screening, acrylics, sumi-e (East Asian brush technique), comics, letterpress, woodwork, metalwork, jewelry making, fiber art, ink, mural painting, kite-making, tattooing, scientific illustration, poetry, songwriting, and video making.
The artists spent several hours sitting right in front of the telescope, where they sketched, painted, took photos and even filmed a music video.
While some of the pieces of art were finished at the event, most of the artists went home with their heads full of ideas and sketchbooks full of notes.
We will continue to add event photos and art here to our Flickr.
This is Joanna Barnum’s finished watercolor, called Icon: Metaphor.
Artist’s Statement on this Work
This piece explores some of the metaphors used to describe and explain the James Webb Space Telescope. The Black-eyed Susan, describing the shape and colors of the gold-plated primary mirror segments surrounding the dark central aft optics subsystem. The beehive, for the hexagonal pattern of the mirror segments. And the butterfly in its chrysalis, representing how the JWST will fold up for its journey into space. These symbols from the natural world also show the possible connection between the work of the JWST and understanding of the origins of life. The central iconic, graphic interpretation of the JWST and the use of gold leaf in this painting and the companion piece Icon: Gaze may also be seen as an allusion to the traditions of religious artwork, emphasizing the profound implications of this endeavor.
Watercolor and 24k gold leaf on paper
Size: 22" x 22"
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