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Celestial Siblings: Parallel Landscapes of Earth and Mars

Internationally known astronomer and fine art photographer Stephen Strom has combined his two talents to create Celestial Siblings: Parallel Landscapes of Earth and Mars. The images in this intriguing exhibition reveal hauntingly similar patterns on Earth and our planetary neighbor: at once simple and profoundly beautiful forms that result from the action of universal physical processes on vastly different spatial scales and terrestrial surfaces.

The exhibition is arranged in four segments that reflect the roles of each of the Aristotelian elements in shaping the surfaces of Earth and Mars: air, earth, fire and water. Terrestrial images drawn from Strom’s landscape interpretations are paired with Martian photographs selected from long strip maps taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The diptychs invite the viewer to contemplate the role of aeolian, fluvial and volcanic activity from the epoch of planetary formation 4 billion years ago to the present day. Diptychs such as Dune Field, Mars/ Dunes, Great Sand Dunes National Park underscore the aesthetic affinities that result from Strom’s meticulous editing and sequencing of the Mars-scapes, to highlight the colorful rhythms and patterns found in his desert landscapes.

Strom looks at our planet with a unique vision. He received his Masters and Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard University, and enjoyed a long and prestigious career beginning as Lecturer in Astronomy at Harvard and Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and continuing on as Chairman of the Five College Astronomy Department at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. In 1998 Stephen moved to Tucson as a member of the scientific staff at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory where he carried out research directed at understanding the formation of stars and planetary systems. Strom began studying photography in 1978 and has been collected and exhibited widely, as well as published in numerous publications.

I have spent most of my professional life as an astronomer, searching out patterns encoded in the light from distant stars in the hope of understanding how our sun and solar system came to be. Over the past four decades, I have spent countless hours perched on remote mountaintops, looking upward mostly, but also contemplating the desert below. During those times, I became drawn to, then seduced by the changing patterns of desert lands sculpted by the glancing light of the rising and setting sun: light that reveals forms molded both by millennial forces and yesterday’s cloudburst into undulations of shapes and colors. In response, I began what has become a 30-year long devotion to capturing in images those remarkable patterns and the rich history they encode.”

Watch and hear Stephen Strom at work, his unique perspective and his relationship with Earth and Mars.

The three-month participation fee includes approximately 30 framed diptych images; label copy, wall text and didactic materials will be provided for production. A companion publication, Earth and Mars: A Reflection, will be released in Fall 2015 by the University of Arizona Press. We are offering a reduction in the fee beyond the standard timeframe. Mr. Strom can be available to host venues for talks, educational programming, etc.

About Stephen E. Strom

Stephen E. Strom began photographing in 1978 while pursuing an academic career as an astronomer. Best known for his abstract desert landscape images, he has collaborated on a number of books including: Secrets from the Center of the World with Muscogee poet, Joy Harjo (1989); Sonoita Plain: Views of a Southwestern Grassland, with ecologists Jane and Carl Bock (2005); and Tseyi (Deep in the Rock): Reflections on Canyon de Chelly, with Navajo poet Laura Tohe (2005). Strom and colleague Stephen Capra documented the grasslands of Southern New Mexico for Gregory McNamee’s Otero Mesa: America’s Wildest Grassland (2008). Strom’s monograph Earth Forms, was published in 2009 by Dewi Lewis Publishing. Stephen Strom’s work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and is held in the permanent collections of the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson; the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, Norman; the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Amherst, MA; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MA.

Category: Science