By Bill Hartmann, Arizona, USA
The IAAA held a workshop September 15-21, 1996, on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The workshop was organized primarily by IAAA member Jess Artem, who lives on Tenerife, and new IAAA president David A. Hardy. Accommodations were a hotel in downtown Santa Cruz, a large and bustling Spanish city where our exhibit was held. The IAAA dramatically lived up to its name, “International”, by having a delegation of active artists from many countries:
- David A. Hardy – IAAA President, England
- Dennis Davidson – IAAA retiring Pres. USA
- Jess Artem – UK/Tenerife (Spain)
- Dana Berry -USA
- Michael Bohme – Germany
- Bill Hartmann – USA
- Gary Harwood – England
- Betsy Smith – USA
- Andreas van Retyi – Germany
- Erik Victor – Belgium/France
There were also three large paintings from Italo Rodomonti – Italy. Also present were Jess’s companion Sally Burgess, originally from Australia, who helped host several enjoyable gatherings, as well as Gayle and Amy Hartmann and Amy’s friend Shizuka Hsieh (USA/UK) who were veterans of the IAAA Iceland workshop of 1988. In addition to this list, we had a video prepared by IAAA member Ana Kozel, of Argentina, and this video was shown at the opening night of our exhibit at the Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos. The exhibit was unjuried but impressive. The spectrum ran from highly realistic to surrealistic and symbolist images, in the vein some of Ludek Pesek’s work. Notable (in my opinion) were three jewel-like little (30-cm) realist oils by new member Gary Harwood, who had specialized in old-master-style still lifes, but joined recently after seeing an article by David A. Hardy; these were his first astronomical paintings, made just for this show. The exhibit and opening night were a great success.
The Museo is a very modern building with a long, curving entry hall, perhaps 60 meters long, and we filled that wall with paintings and prints, under the exhibit title, Arte, Espacio, Humanidado: Exposicion Pintores Astronomicos. Typically there were three to six images per artist, with more from our local host, Jess Artem. Opening night had three talks, two videos, an audience of about 50, and simultaneous translation into Spanish. In spite of the fact that we sequenced our presentation at the last minute, the program dovetailed beautifully. I opened with a historical talk on the U.S. roots of space art and the previous IAAA workshops. David A. Hardy followed with a talk on European space art and space art techniques. Dennis Davidson closed the talks with a presentation on new techniques and computer art. This was followed by a six-minute video prepared by Dana Berry, combining a number of his stunning computer animation pieces, set against music by Philip Glass. We ended with the video from Ana Kozel.
The exhibition was open until January 1997. For me, the success of the opening evening was summed up by German IAAA member, Michael Bohme; although I had met Michael at a Swiss exhibit organized by Arthur Woods, this was Michael’s first IAAA workshop and he said with some feeling that “this presentation made me proud to be an IAAA member.”
After mounting the exhibit and making our opening presentations, we spent the week touring the volcanic island, which was celebrating 500 years of Spanish government from 1496 to 1996! Columbus stopped at a neighbor island that was already settled in 1492. Scenery ranged from dry coastal deserts to pine forests at 2000m to a barren volcanic summit and lava flows in a national park above the tree line at 3000-4000m. My only critique of the workshop was a wish that we had scheduled more time (as at earlier IAAA workshops) simply to look at each other’s work, discuss techniques, perhaps show slides, and share critiques of our work, and also for sketching and painting in the field.
For example, we lunched briefly at a stunning Mars landscape of orange sands and scattered boulders, near the summit cone, but it cried out for more time to paint. Discussions among members (over late Spanish dinners at 9-10 PM) were fruitful and wide-ranging. One dinner featured an argument over whether it was more important to “paint for personal growth” or to “market” the work in order to reach the public.
At one end of this spectrum was Jess Artem, who moved to the Canaries from England and paints primarily for himself. Jess’s large (meter scale) canvases involve a degree of symbolism involving cosmic themes and environmental threats to planet Earth, and he has sold several. At the other end of the spectrum was Erik Victor, who organized the Spaceworld exhibition, which has toured in European museums and commercial centers. Spaceworldinvolves images, large spaceship models, and interactive displays. Erik advocated aggressive marketing of such material, in order to reach the public with a message about the importance of space and environmental matters. Though involving a different dimension, the debate somewhat mirrored the earlier debate in Pulsar pages about IAAA aims.
In spite of the range of styles and opinions, I was impressed that the unifying factor was a strong interest among all the IAAA artists in our human role as inhabitants of a threatened planet and a larger surrounding cosmos — a role that the IAAA pursues, but which seems to escape most people in day-to-day life. To sum up, the Canary Island workshop revealed a vigorous organization of artists, living up to their common interest in a cosmic vision, and reaffirming the (hard-to-pin-down) goals of the IAAA.