A new tribute to the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo 14 lunar landing mission has grown out of a collaboration between two artists and a touch of moon dust, of sorts.
Touched by the Moon, a new oil painting by artist Chris Calle, captures the view that astronauts Alan Shepard, Ed Mitchell and Stu Roosa had from lunar orbit 50 years ago this week. More than what they saw, though, embedded in the painting are remnants of a once-living monument to the Apollo 14 lunar landing.
Calle said, I hadn't planned on working on anything with this sawdust, because I didn't know about it. That is, until Scott Phillips approached me.
Phillips used the Sycamore wood to create sculptures for a new Moon Tree garden that was planted at the Kennedy Space Center for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program in 2019. Left behind was a pile of moon tree sawdust.
Phillips said, In talking with Chris, he was inspired by the late Alan Bean (Apollo 12 artist) to continue his legacy to include something from the moon in his artwork. Chris has taken on the mantle as the only artist in our space community to use his exquisite talent to paint a master painting, incorporating the sawdust.
In creating Touched by the Moon, Calle was in fact, carrying on two legacies.
Calle said, It's my homage to Alan Bean, adding something that flew, something related to the mission, to the piece. He always appreciated asking my dad advice about art and I always appreciated asking Alan about the things he did in his art. So that's a nice continuity.
With the Apollo 14 moon tree sawdust in hand, Calle said that Earthrise became the natural choice for the 50th anniversary painting.
Calle said, When I began to think about what image would best represent the ideas of the seeds flying to the moon and then returning here to Earth, being planted and spread throughout the world, it became really clear to me what to paint. There is a great quote from Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders who said, 'We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth. I applied the paint very thick because with the sawdust mixed in it had to stick in the paint. It wouldn't have really worked if I had applied thin layers, because then you would have seen too much of that rough sawdust. I practiced with it and it just didn't look like I wanted it to look, so I really applied thick, thick paint.
Most of the moon tree dust is concentrated in the paint for the lunar surface and in the black sky. Calle, though, has plans to enhance the depiction of Earth, too, and for a good cause.
Calle said, I will hand enhance Earth, basically painting Earth again. I will use more moon tree dust in those enhancements, so the original painting will have the sawdust used in the lunar surface, because that's where the seeds went, and then in the enhanced prints, it will be used to enhance Earth, representing where the seeds came back, getting back to Earth. I am going to take a golf ball, dip it in paint and put a little impression, just a little dimple. I know exactly where I will put it.
Calle also plans to add one more subtle nod to the Apollo 14 mission. Before leaving the moon on Feb. 6, 1971, Shepard famously used a makeshift golf club to hit a couple of golf balls off the moon.
Calle's father, Paul, was one of the first eight artists chosen by NASA to document its activities and was the only artist present when the Apollo 11 astronauts suited up for their launch. Paul Calle, who died in 2010, created the art for the First Man on the Moon 1969 postage stamp, and together, Paul and Chris designed stamps for the 25th anniversary of the first moon landing.