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To the moon: Durango artist’s painting to be launched in space as part of lunar time capsule

Durango artist Mariah Kaminsky’s painting “The Hug,” featuring Durango Circus acrobats Cynthia Johnson and Nadine Drake, is headed to the moon in January. (Courtesy of Mariah Kaminsky)
Mariah Kaminsky’s ‘The Hug’ part of The Lunar Codex project

When Durango artist Mariah Kaminsky looks up at the moon this winter, she’ll be a little more invested in the sights than the rest of us – her oil painting, “The Hug,” along with the works of 3,000 other artists (and one A.I.), will be launched to the moon in January from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will be part of a lunar time capsule that will remain on the moon.

On. The. Moon. How cool is that?

Kaminsky’s work is being launched through The Lunar Codex/Artists on the Moon project as part of “The Nova Collection,” which, according to Lunar Codex’s website, is the payload associated with the Intuitive Machines Nova-C mission, landing in Vallis Schrasöteri, in the area of Oceanus Procellarum on the moon (the “Ocean of Storms” on the western edge of the moon’s near side).

The Lunar Codex was founded by Samuel Peralta – a physicist, writer, art enthusiast and curator and collector.

Kaminsky, who’s lived in Durango for 20 years, said she’s painted for as long as she can remember, but actually graduated with a degree in technical theater from Ball State University. When she and her husband moved to Durango, Kaminsky got more into decorative painting and mural work, doing that work for about 10 years. She said she then started being interested in the finer aspect of things again.

“I started painting in oil on canvas and really got into portraiture for some reason. I don’t know why that was calling me,” she said, adding that she still does the decorative painting and mural work as a job, but her studio work is where the future of her work is.

Kaminsky said she got involved with The Lunar Codex project last year. She’s involved with 33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago through its online sales outlet on Artsy.com. As part of that group, there are different curated shows all of the time and guest curators, she said. The show last summer was online, like everything else because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its curator was The Lunar Codex’s Peralta.

“He was awarded payload on these upcoming three different missions and decided from that then to create an art collection on the moon,” she said. “So he took any of the shows that he had curated in the last couple of years and chose from all of those shows as to which ones would be included. And mine was included in what was called ‘Shelter,’ the pandemic-themed show.”

On the Net

For more information about Mariah Kaminsky’s work, visit mariahkaminsky.com. For more about The Lunar Codex project, visit www.lunarcodex.com.

“The Hug” came from the “Cirque” series of paintings Kaminsky did as a way to break away from portraiture for a while and study figurative painting. The oil-on-canvas painting features Cynthia Johnson and Nadine Drake, local acrobats with Durango Circus.

“I set up a photo shoot with Elle Carpenter, who is the director of Durango Circus. I had seen them perform, I think it was at a Snowdown event a year prior, and I just kind of had the idea that those would be amazing figurative paintings – like dancers but not; more current,” she said. “We set up their aerial rig out on our property in Bayfield and we had a four-hour shoot. I think there were seven acrobats. I got so many amazing photographs to work from.

“I think ‘The Hug’ was the very first piece that I did in the series,” she said. “I just loved it – I thought it was so poignant, kind of like women supporting women, the nurturing kind of thing.”

According to The Lunar Codex website, NASA is planning to send humans back to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. To get ready for its 2024 date, NASA will send scientific instruments between now and 2023 to the moon using Commercial Lunar Payload Service partners. Their lunar landers will launch via commercial rocket platforms by the United Launch Alliance or SpaceX. These missions will carry commercial payloads, including the time capsules that make up The Lunar Codex. While focused on visual art, The Lunar Codex also includes a substantial collection of contemporary books, stories, poetry, music, essays and more.

And it’s not like a bunch of canvases are going to be loaded onto a spaceship and sent up – all of the pieces in the collection will be archived using digital and analog technology, specifically what’s called NanoFiche technology. According to The Lunar Codex website, NanoFiche can store 150,000 pages of text or photos on a single 8.5-inch-by-11-inch page. NanoFiche is also “impervious to temperature and humidity, and has a near-zero degradation factor.”

For Kaminsky, having her work sent to the moon is a cool opportunity.

“I am excited. It’s a little weird – somebody I hadn’t talked to for a long time said, ‘You just get into the strangest things!’ It’s true. How many people can say that they’re going to have artwork on the moon?” she said, adding that after the launch, she may look at the moon in a whole different way. “It’s kind of weird, but it’s very, very neat, especially as a Gen Xer, we were all very much into the moon missions and the space missions when we were little.”


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