the Big Sky

The ancient astronomers of Greece were the first to postulate the notion of a geocentric system of the cosmos - with the sun in the center and celestial bodies rotating around it. The desire to learn the path of the stars, the heavens, is a metaphor for the human condition, and one for the creation of art as well. We seek - we need understanding, we need order and logic. To make sense of the universe. We can live with a mystery for only so long before we succumb to our innate nature to learn and comprehend.

This is true of my approach to creating these images too. I inevitably create mysteries for myself to make sense of by shooting things separately and trying to put things together to mean something, at least to me. This can be said of this piece, certainly, as it has been sitting unfinished for several months now. The pose of the model, shot on a blank background, and then several grounds and skies and objects were tried and rejected. For most of the time, the working title was "Hello Earth" - a nod to the song by Kate Bush, and I was going to put my figure on the moon looking back at Earth in the night sky. Certainly the pose of the model seemed to suggest a sense of "behold!" but the inability to go to the moon to shoot our planet myself, as well as my aversion to using stock photos for my images meant this idea was not possible!


And so, for many month he was just a man on the ground surrounded by a sea of black. I then found this armillary sphere, or celestial astrolabe, and decided that this was the object to finish this piece. I knew it represented the world in some way, but was not sure how exactly. I knew it was antiquated, but  wasn't sure just how old it was. It turns out it was a Greek invention by one of the first astronomers, Hipparchus, and it represented at first the earth in the center, and later the sun, and the rings represented the celestial phenomena occurring in the night sky - the eclipses, the path of stars, the longitudes and latitudes, etc.

Once I positioned it in the sky above, I decided this would make a nice bookend to an earlier image, "the Time Traveler" - the model was the same, and I decided to use the same environment as well to connect them. That image was about our connection and perceivers of linear time, and this one is about the perception of motion, or the order of things - the birth of reason and logic, the persistence of the human mind. I thought the arrow nicely mirrored the arms of the model, as if he is feeling the polar directions himself and trying to connect to the model, or perhaps controlling it like a conductor - the orchestra of the heavens before him.

I wanted to finish this image today especially, as it's an anniversary of sorts - three years to the day since I completed my first conceptual/fine art image and started down this particular path with my art. In the end, I decided to rename this piece "the Big Sky" - another Kate Bush reference, and certainly relevant to the daunting task the ancient astronomers had of mapping the night sky and the mysteries beyond it.

Michael Bilotta
September 14, 2014