When I learned of Neil Armstrong’s recent death, I instantly recalled a moment from my childhood. During my sixth grade history lesson, I had been somewhat envious of this first man to set foot on the moon. At one time or another, most of us have probably wished we could travel to space. However, considering Georgetown does not prepare us to become astronauts, this isn’t exactly a plausible reality. Fortunately, artist Rebecca Kamen has brought space down to Earth. Her impressive exhibit within the Spagnuolo Gallery in the Walsh Building provides a visual solar system for all to see.
Kamen’s art truly captures the essence of the universe. Her sculptures contain the surreal elements that embody the natural phenomena of earth. By integrating art and science, Kamen portrays the fluid structure of energy systems. Many of her sculptures show the composition of nature; they bear a slight resemblance to the diagrams we’ve seen in biology and chemistry textbooks. Thankfully, they avoid the pesky scientific jargon that usually accompanies these illustrations.
The most notable aspect of Kamen’s work is her delicate balance of simplicity and complexity. While Kamen’s macro view of the universe reveals the big picture of existence, her micro outlook delves deeper into the intricacies of our globe. This creates a seductive effect, luring visitors into the depth of her sculptures. The three-dimensional aspect of Kamen’s work screams a subtle truth: There is much more to art than one initially notices. Kamen achieves this effect by layering graphite and acrylic on sheets of Mylar. These layers are modeled after pages; when combined and woven together, they form a complex story.
Overall, my favorite piece is “Flare”. The idea of “Flare” was based upon the images of solar flares in Angelo Secchi’s natural history textbook, Le Soleil. By combining orange and red fiberglass rods, Kamen has created the appearance of a flame. Upon first glance, my perceived notions of Armageddon quickly surfaced. If “Flare” was infinitely larger, I’m confident that it would engulf the world in flames. Another especially elaborate piece within the exhibit is “Galaxy”, whose elliptical charcoal rings reflect the structure of the Milky Way.
The matrix and strata series on display are also intriguing. Kamen uses a plethora of color shades and unique shapes to create these stirring works. In addition, some of her sculptures are formed from the sophisticated intersections of crisscrossed wire. Kamen realizes the distinction between symmetry and asymmetry, and she recognizes when to apply each technique.
Not surprisingly, Kamen draws inspiration from rare books and literature. Cosmology, philosophy, and spirituality also heavily influence her work. These interests help her exemplify the qualities of a seasoned artist. Kamen has won numerous awards for her work. She has even lectured at Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I encourage you to immerse yourself in the world of her creation. Kamen’s work will surely take you to new heights. Perhaps you will find yourself in space after all.
Photos by Kirill Makarenko