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Cecil Herring  –  painter and sculptor
Click for larger image " discipline is the most important quality an artist can have... "
       
 
How were you motivated to choose your particular field?
  I have trekked down many blind alleys, tried many technologies for my space art. Welding, electroforming, spraying vinyls, painting, recycling space junk, casting plastics. I have experimented for decades. I never quite understood my drive until now, as we approach the Millenium, plan space colonies and stations. The puzzle comes together in a magical way!

My early memories are my Father, Cecil J. Darby, pointing out constellations and stars to me, reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, The Chessman of Mars for bedtime stories! He would point to Mars and say, "See that red star? We'll go there someday." I remember thinking of the colors, strange shapes and having vivid dreams every night!

I'm sure I got my love of space and space art from him. He was a dreamer with a car garage, welded and built racecars. We went everywhere. Pan American World Airways Clipper Ships took off from Dinner Key in Miami, my home town. We watched the big planes taxi out on Biscayne Bay and takeoff. We went to air shows where planes did loop–t–loops and dives all over the place. Somehow it all got jumbled together – my passions for art, metals, space and technology. I studied art and breathlessly watched the space launches on TV.

In 1965, we moved to Brevard County where there were weekly launches. By 1967, I was a space writer - photographer for the local paper. Then, I got to watch every awesome launch from a press site three miles away. I got to meet astronauts, Dr. Wernher von Braun, and climb around in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Press and famous people were everywhere. We all had stars in our eyes! It had a huge impact on my art forms!

I began welding steel and 'space junk' armatures I got from area junkyards and sprayed polyvinyl chloride (a material used to mothball Navalfleets) over the welded armatures. I added electrical wiring so they would light up! That is how my Spacescapes came to be. They are lightweight, other worldly, holey, curvilinear shapes, covered with a spanable cobweb material, built up into a durable hidelike covering. Using a diesel compressor and a pressurized spray system sprayed the molasses–like liquid that floated over the armatures, leaving holes. I painted them in swirling day–glo colors.

Some had black-lights blinking and some included moving parts. Naturally, they all had space–related names like Crater Craft, Cool It Charley – A Lunar Experiment, Take Me to Your Leader. They were shown in black rooms, illuminated with a pulsing black light system I synchronized with synthesizer music of eery screams. roars and thumps – sounds of outer space They glowed in the dark! They were a hit at my one–woman show in New York in 1971. I called the show Spacescapes. I was even invited to be on ABC Eyewitness News Channel 9 there in New York City.

For 30 years, I've kept the name and spacey imagery going through some tough times. I don't weld or use metal–forming methods now. I got very sick in the early 80s with metal poisoning. My lungs were black. Give it ALL up or die, several doctors said. I thought I was through as an artist. All metals, solvents, chemicals, plastics, even oil paints became toxic tome. I thought I was through as an artist so I went to college, EVEN LAW SCHOOL! That was a 10–year down period in my life! I was glad the Digital Art Age came around in the late 80s, just in the nick of time for me! It is cleaner and safer, believe me. Now, I recreate three dimensional art works in a two dimensional medium, using many of those old space images I stored on CD Roms!

  Click for larger image
       
 
What can you share about your creative process?
    I am at the process of making art all the time, refueling my visual tanks with movies, trips to museums, circuses, shows, theme parks, the Space Center, real action stuff. Then I dream a bit in my orchid garden, play loud classical music, make paintings or drawings for practice works or try new digital techniques, doing things a little differently each time.

I may print a digital print of a new work. Then, I laminate it to a gessoed masonite board and apply layers of special ultraviolet inhibiting varnish (important to reduce fading), embedding computer-generated transparencies (printed on transparency film) in the varnish. Then, I cover the work with plexiglass, painted on the inside with enamels, plus brilliant stain glass glazes. I frame the layers together. This will give me my favorite effect of seeing images through colors, or iridescent stained-glass effects. Sometimes these techniques are modified, with additions of metallic powders, cut stencils, sprayed straight lines and areas in the plexiglass paper, or pieces of thin metal.

Or, I may paint a painting on canvas or watercolor paper and layer that with the above techniques. I am able to print beautiful archival prints using my big 36" printer, on canvas or watercolor paper. But I find a greater challenge in making EACH work one-of-a-kind in some way. Spraying the inks with water to get droplets and then over painting it with oil paints. I want a work that SPEAKS TO ME every time I look at it. Sometimes, that takes months. I rework endlessly, have huge failures. It's difficult to say what I might try next. I DO TRY TO SHOW UP for my working hours! I guess discipline is the most important quality an artist can have and having the courage to change.

 
       
 
What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
  It is one thing to make art on earth and quite another to actually have 'enduring' art on a distant planet. Shipping big sculptures or paintings to Mars is impossible unless you can call the Internet a spaceshipping service! But there IS a way to have ART on that distant Planet. God loves artists! Soon after I began my digital art studies (1989) I heard about the Internet. Art on–line became a reality. 1995, I got a web page and started having 'conversations' with other artists in Hawaii, California and Colorado, even South Africa! I made my own web site and started 'shipping' art 'files' around the globe or at least to a service bureau for printing.

For art on a Mars Millennium Project, a file transfer protocol or other derivative software easily could transport digital art to liquid crystal display screens that show the latest 3D or other imagery, animations, 'still' art or perhaps manipulated photo images on colony walls. We already have the technology. Using digital cameras, software programs, and computers, we might have a digital art exchange program between Earth and Mars. Some of the first Mars inhabitants might get homesick. We could beam up a view of their favorite scenes.

Images may be created by the 'force' of the artist, by thought, touch or voice. There are materials to be used on Mars – rocks for lasercarvings, etchings, Mars Dust Art. Artists could collaborate, with the entire space community networked and collectively creating. That is called Renga, (Linked Images) similar to a Japanese form of poetry collaboration or 'Linked Verse.' It creates a new image that has no author.

I cannot imagine Martian colony art in the traditional 'enduring' sense. The digital art world is electronic, not concrete. That's what makes it so workable for a Martian Colony. Technologies we already have are Caves– Virtual 3D environments. Sculptures would be perfectly 3D. Virtual walking through art environments such as I designed 28 years ago is completely possible and easily transportable! Once a base is operational, technology no doubt will develop media to inspire permanent works beyond our conception now. Remember – form follows function.

1999. Cecil Herring

 
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