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.
These earth-based images find resonance in the remarkable photographs produced by planetary probes launched over the past decades by NASA and its European counterpart, ESA. Tens of thousands of these images are available in digital form in public domain archives, which, as an experiment, I decided to examine from the perspective of an artist rather than an astronomer. In doing so, I tried to imagine myself standing on the surface of Mars, or on a high Martian mountain, and searching for patterns which evoke the same powerful emotional response as a terrestrial desert landscape. Hence these images: a collection of terrestrial landscapes and Mars-scapes, each of which captures patterns that reveal sculptural, chromatic, and (implicitly) temporal rhythms. Viewed in totality, they speak to the commonality of physical and geological forces, often acting on vastly different spatial and temporal scales.
I invite the viewer to examine these images, and to contemplate the larger meaning of these patterns, as well as the peculiar power of photograph and viewpoint to reveal the multi-level beauty of two worlds. What I hope to evoke is what the late essayist Ellen Meloy described as a “geography of infinite cycles, of stolid pulses of emergence and subsidence, which, in terms geologic and human, is the story of the Earth [and Mars] itself.”