Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cosmos Gallery


It was recently my great pleasure to enjoy the beauty of The Cosmos Gallery, an online artwork collection by a marvelously talented Peruvian painter and web site developer named Dacio, who shares all his art on a self-made site that is an amazing blend of science and creativity! Dacio agreed to an interview about his beautiful creations, and gave permission to share them on my blog.

You began painting after being inspired by the International Year of Astronomy 2009 – but seeing your work, I find it hard to believe you've been working with oils for only two years. Did you paint other subjects before exploring the universe?
DACIO: I've been painting and drawing since childhood, but it was something I took for granted and did not approach seriously. I've painted landscapes, abstracts and portraits, but the universe always captured my imagination. One of my first memories is gazing in awe at Halley's Comet through my father's telescope. However, space seemed overwhelming, too magnificent to grasp or paint. I did remain curious, and in 2009 I started watching the series Cosmos after learning about the IYA. I found myself experiencing an intense urge to learn more about the stars that Carl talked about. A few months later, I attended my first star party, and realized to my surprise that by then I could find my way around the night sky and that I had a better understanding of what I was looking at. Learning a bit of what once seemed obscure was an empowering feeling, and I wanted to share.

Painting the Colors of the Cosmos
The rich textures and bold colors in your "astro art" are very powerful, and your emotions about the connections between science and creative expression come through so clearly. How do you get your ideas for subjects? Are you influenced by Hubble, science shows, or do you wait for something spontaneous to appeal to you?
DACIO: I collect images from space telescopes and observatories, because they are available on the internet for free to everyone. I feel happy knowing that I will never run out of inspiration by choosing the cosmos; every day I find something new that takes my breath away. I don't watch TV, so I'm thankful for all the science content that you can find online: documentaries, science blogs, films, podcasts, etc. I listen to Astronomy.fm online while I paint. This allowed me to discover my favorite podcasts: 365 DOA, The Space Writer, Skepticality, Dr. Kiki's Science Hour, and The Groks Science Show. I no longer have to wish upon a star and hope that TV or newspapers will keep me informed about the stuff that matters to me.

My favorite description in your gallery was for The Swan, "where stars are born". I loved the story of the abstract painting, Going Nova, an "awakening that takes us through a thousand years and across space into the heart of a star". Celestial events can be timeless symbols for enlightenment, and your journeys of creation are quite profound. Are you also a poet? Do you write as well as paint?
DACIO: I do love poetry and literature; I used to write more when I was in high school, but at some point I wanted to express more than I could comfortably put into words. I particularly love Pablo Neruda and Gustavo Bécquer, they wrote a type of poetry that I found irresistible in its simplicity and elegance. I found some of that in painting: I didn't need a big budget to get serious about it, I didn't need a crew or a producer or a studio. I simply needed my brushes, paints, an empty canvas and a burning desire to share.

Magnificent DesolationWhy do you encourage people to download and share the pictures of your paintings on your site, what about your copyrights?
DACIO: Many artists publish their work online by disabling the right-click or other techniques to block users from downloading, or as I'm constantly told, "To protect your work and stop people from stealing it, man!" This attitude seems shortsighted. Why share your work online in the first place then? I'm thankful that NASA has the courtesy to share images without copyrights, thus granting me freedom to create upon this inspiration. This openness is nothing strange within the scientific community, and I wanted to keep that spirit when I released my work online.

I tell my visitors they already have my permission to download and share, that they are free to post it on their blog, or remix and build upon it. A Creative Commons license seemed the right decision by allowing me to give away some rights for the sake of better sharing, while still reserving the right to make a living from my work. I started selling reproductions on canvas of my paintings as a way to find out if like minded people would see value of science-inspired art and give me the chance to continue creating with their support. I had not anticipated that it also provided me with encouragement for further effort and dedication. Thanks to this, I'm able to reach a broader audience.

Dance of the FirefliesMy favorite painting is the Dance of the Fireflies: Antennae Galaxies, and it's clear you did scientific research while creating these visuals. In a world saturated by digital data, many might have advised you to concentrate on your web career instead of 2-D painting. Is this form of art still relevant in the modern age?
DACIO: Well, first there is the social relevance. As humans continue to reach new heights, we will carry on inspiring each other and art will continue playing a role. Inspiration transcends fields: I was inspired by science to paint the stars and my art can inspire others to pursue scientific literacy. It is true that modern age has brought us a saturation of options, information and distractions, but it also brought the chance to connect to a global audience. I want my paintings to have substance, I want to infuse them with gratitude for the science outreach that inspired me. This was the main reason why I developed in my website and interactive "Anatomy" section for each piece.

Secondly, there is the personal journey. The creative process develops a critical stance, experimentation and problem solving skills. This is how painting becomes a type of learning journal for each creative moment, and with a particular contrasting property in this age of rapid obsolescence: the longevity of the medium. It's mind boggling how we can still appreciate the tangible beauty and technique of an oil painting created hundreds of years ago. Learning about the universe makes you appreciate the short time given to us. In this context, I feel that painting is also a way of saying, "I was here; everything else along with me shall pass, but the colors of my moment will stay a bit longer."

Thank you so much for your time in answering questions and for allowing me to post your beautiful images. Friends and readers, you can also keep up with Dacio on his Facebook page, and his YouTube Channel… !