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3.2.04

Believe It...Or Not — by Mark Barry

Hourglass Nebula seen from the Hubble Space TelescopeI was going to write about a conversation I had last night over dinner. It centered around the tale of a right-leaning group that hacks into the software of NASA's Mars rover Spirit and cuts off the flow of imagery back to Earth. The theory is that some of the pictures beaming back were showing signs of previous life on the big red dust bowl; since this is a conflict with the Earth-centered story of life's beginning, the group threatened to destroy the little buggy if NASA didn't censor the pictures before presenting them to the public. I personally don't care if dinner stories are true or not, they only have to be entertaining. Thank goodness we still have Hubble orbiting, safe from budget cuts and sending back imagery that would never give support to a creationist point of view (like the Hourglass Nebula, shown at right).

Instead, my real reason for writing is unbelievable imagery of a different nature. While driving my daughter to and from school, I get to share the most incredible sunrises with her in the morning, and fantastic sunsets in the afternoon: wonderful billowing cloud formations, supported by deep blues, purples, and magenta, topped by wild oranges and screaming yellows. If one were to paint an imaginary landscape, would we ever think of using these combinations of color? What is the true meaning of natural? Nature is everything, and "natural" is only a limitation of our imagination. Perhaps we should be forgiving when a friend wears a striped shirt with plaid pants. The natural world is constantly showing any combination has possibilities: it's not always a harmonic coexistence.

Claude Monet (Vétheuil, Setting Sun, 1901, Musée d'Orsay) and Vincent Van Gogh (The Starry Night, Saint-Rémy, 1889, Museum of Modern Art) come to mind first as painters who were known for pushing the color, which led to the Fauve group of artists (for example, Maurice de Vlaminck, The Blue House, 1906, Minneapolis Institute of Arts), and so on, to artists working today, such as Paul Resika or Helen Frankenthaler. This doesn't even scratch the surface, since I'm only mentioning Western European art because of time restraints (I have to get back to painting): there are so many cultural interpretations, African, Asian, Latino, and Native-American, forever influencing the way we see the world.

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