Shana Mabari: Inspirational Exploration and Astronomical Observations
Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster
February 8 – April 19
Written by Genie Davis
Fine art is taking flight as artist Shana Mabari rockets into the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster with a literally out-of-this-world exhibition. Central to Mabari’s work is the idea of an intersection between art and science, and her own exploration of astronomy and astrophysics.
This fusion with art inspires her installation at MOAH, which is a part of a museum-wide exhibition, The Light of Space, opening February 8th. MOAH and Mabari are also partnering with publisher Griffith Moon on the book Space, featuring 15 original written works and accompanying images, dedicated to exploring the idea of space through both mediums. The book project was curated by Mabari along with MOAH director and senior curator Andi Campognone.
Mabari’s full-room installation at the museum, Letters on Sunspots, features both two and three-dimensional work and aluminum prints from her Stella, Constellatio, and Planeta series, along with sculptural works from her Meteor series. The title of her installation refers to letters and astronomical observations by Galileo Galilei written in 1612.
Like Galilei, Mabari bases her work on her views of space itself. Each of her 2-D drawings offer two views of the same object – both a positive and negative view; in other words, a view of the object as seen looking skyward from earth, and a view of the object looking down to the earth.
In “Planeta Mars,” one of Mabari’s drawn images now rendered on aluminum, astronomical and mathematical information is included in the work. The image itself is geometric but not abstract, precise in its description. The use of aluminum lends this and other works a sheen that is equally of the future and historic: aluminum is a significant metal in aerospace engineering, and it is also an element that occurs naturally throughout the universe.
Using the metal as her canvas, Mabari is quite literally fusing her art with science. Her images recall Miro or Kandinsky, with their delicate, perfect lines, their elegant geometry, and fluid grace. They serve both as defined sky maps and a magical-looking tribute to the universe, celestial in scope and content. The blues, whites, and black of the configurations depicted in “Stella Unuk Serpens” pull the viewer into both the science and mysterious romance of the night sky; the silver- grey background of “Constellation Aquila” allows the artist’s constellation to virtually leap out from the piece.
Her meteors – jeweled, multifaceted acrylic sculptures – dazzle with light and color; they are like distant astronomical objects once viewed through a telescope, now transcendently shining here on earth. Whether a lustrous emerald green or a red/yellow configuration, the sculptures play with visual perception, as well as with viewers’ experience of physical space, through their use of color, light, reflection, and shape. The sculptures were developed in 2018-19 during time spent in the LA-based Mabari’s second studio in Ibiza, Spain.
It was in 2018 when Mabari was chosen as the first artist to ever fly on a mission of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – SOFIA. SOFIA uses a 2.7-meter telescope mounted in a customized Boeing 747 aircraft, one that flies to a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet, to study astronomical phenomena including black holes, magnetic fields, and star cluster formation.
Soaring above most atmospheric water vapor, astronomers aboard SOFIA can clearly study the universe and its building blocks. Observing their work served as inspiration for Mabari, who strives to communicate the wonder of aerospace and science through her art.
Mabari began her 10-hour flight from the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale. She describes her experience on SOFIA as “an honor and a privilege to experience the elegant complexities of infrared astronomy, astrophysics, and astro-chemistry…It was an extraordinary opportunity to witness firsthand some of the astounding ways in which astronomers continue to radically expand our collective field of vision into the universe.” According to Mabari, “As an artist, I feel one of my greatest challenges is to grow into other fields and areas that are complementary.” She views the SOFIA project as an “incredible” way to gather information and “expand creative possibilities into new realms.”
SOFIA regularly ferries international astronomers on its flights, as well as using its capabilities to bring science to life for educators – and now, for an artist.
Mabari’s upcoming exhibition will not be her first in the Lancaster area; her large-scale, 20-foot stainless steel and acrylic sculpture “Astral Challenger” is permanently located in the Antelope Valley, a commemoration of the space shuttle Challenger flight. And, in 2015, the artist had a roof-top exhibition at MOAH, displaying vividly colored translucent and mirrored sculptures from her series Diametros Petals.
Following her February 2020 MOAH show, Mabari will also be featured at Melissa Morgan Fine Art in Palm Desert, and at Porch Gallery in Ojai. Both exhibitions will debut in mid-March 2020.
MOAH’s The Light of Space, including Mabari’s Letters on Sunspots installation, opens February 8th. Along with her work, images from Laddie John Dill and photographic artist Jay Mark Johnson will also be on display. The exhibition runs through April 19th.
665 W Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster, 93534