NAU art professor commemorates Year of Astronomy at Lowell Observatory

Uploaded by InsideNAU on 25.02.2009

>>Theresa Bierer: Welcome to this edition of Inside NAU. 2009 is the year of astronomy,
a notable year for Flagstaff, whose history, character and economy is so closely tied to
the science of the universe. A Northern Arizona University professor and artist will commemorate
this year of astronomy with an exhibit here at Lowell Observatory.
>>Paula Rice: This is the planet Pluto and of course we all know that the planet Pluto
isn't a planet anymore but I am a citizen of Flagstaff Arizona and so I have to include
Pluto in the set of planets so my set of planets is 9 instead of 8.
>>Bierer: Paula Rice is creating a figurative representation of planets. Pluto which was
discovered in Flagstaff is a small, cold child out in the darkness of space. She used a glaze
which crackles and looks like ice. And Pluto is holding what looks like a tinker toy, representing
Kuiper Belt objects. Rice says human forms can be considered personal planets, she sees
a connection between our bodies and the planet earth, whose landscapes she depicted on a
human figure. >>Rice: So the jump isn't that great to start
putting the landscape of the planets of our solar system on the human body and it connects
us in a kind of cosmic way with the larger universe around us. I thought it would be
a great deal of fun to do that. It's also kind of ridiculous, but in a good way.
>>Bierer: Rice says it's a leap to make one of the giant gas planets like Jupiter or Uranus
into a ceramic figure, but she's gone through considerable lengths to maintain integrity
through color and design. And after spending hours studying the planets through telescopes
and books, Rice says she's fallen in love with them.
>>Rice: That's why I need in my imagination to go there, they beckon, they are so beautiful
and I want to be there and I want to experience them fully. When I go through page by page
of all the books I have on astronomy and I see the absolute incomparable beauty of these
places I'm drawn as an artist to deal with this somehow.
>>Bierer: Saturn's many rings are made from fiberglass, the body is gold as it appears
through the telescope and the many layers of gas are represented. Jupiter is an imposing
figure as the giant of the solar system and Rice included its moons and the fast moving
clouds. Rice says she is looking forward to April when she will share her work with peers
who will travel to Phoenix for the national council on education for the ceramic arts
conference. >>Rice: Well I hope that they'll just be enthused
by it and happy. When art works it has a gift to give to people and I hope my art has a
gift. In some way or another and no one has actually adequately defined what art is, but
one thing that everyone agrees on is that it is somehow is extraordinary. And I don't
think about that when I am making my work , I get a big bang out of the idea that this
work is, I think quite unique, it feels unique to me.
>>Bierer: As Rice finishes this exhibit she plans to bring her students here to her studio
to show them an active artist at work. She says along with helping them develop specific
skills, she hopes to encourage her students with her own personal vision.
>>Rice: And so my job as a professor is to make an environment where that kind of creativity
can actually, comfortably come into being. You can't teach creativity, so all I can do
is make an environment that is more likely to pop up. That's what I do.
>>Bierer: Northern Arizona residents will have the opportunity to see these figurative
interpretations of the planets at Lowell Observatory starting August 1st.