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Exhibition at Boca Raton Museum of Art invites viewers to honor the women astronomers
Just one of these works can take thousands of hours to create.

BOCA RATON, FLA.- As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, the Boca Raton Museum of Art pays tribute to this milestone year by charting a different course that stands out from the rest, with the new exhibition Carol Prusa: Dark Light. On this journey, the artist invites viewers to honor the women astronomers who originally helped map the stars as she takes flight across the mysteries of deep space.

Her new exhibition is curated by Kathleen Goncharov, the Senior Curator of the Museum, and features never-before-seen works created specifically for this show - meticulous creations handmade by the artist using her signature silverpoint technique. The exhibition opens August 20 and remains on view until January 19. The artist, Carol Prusa, lives in Boca Raton and currently teaches painting as a Professor of Art at Florida Atlantic University.

"When we get too distracted by the details in our daily lives, that is when we particularly need artists like Carol Prusa to expand our horizons into the solar system, into the deeper unknown of dark space." said Irvin Lippman, the Executive Director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

"As Carol explains, she has always been interested in science and cosmology. In the sixth grade she wondered about the Big Bang and 'how it could be that there was nothing before there was something.'"

Prusa combines surprising materials such as sculpted resin, fiberglass, metal leaf, LED lights, black iron oxide, titanium, and powdered steel with the ancient craft of silverpoint, resulting in ethereal creations that command curiosity. Carol Prusa: Dark Light includes silverpoint, graphite and acrylic works on plexiglass and wood panels; light-speckled domes with internal lights and video.

"Carol Prusa is a visual alchemist whose work harnesses cosmic chaos and makes invisible forces materialize before our eyes," writes Logan Royce Beitmen in the exhibition catalogue. "Drawing with actual silver and painting with powdered steel, Prusa's use of materials defies expectations."

Prusa created a new series of prints for this exhibition, honoring the contributions made to science and astronomy by women who spearheaded early efforts to map the heavens. She was inspired by the life and accomplishments of Maria Mitchell, the first woman elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (in 1848), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (in 1850).

Mitchell was a pioneering advocate for math and science education for girls and was the first female astronomy professor. In 1847, Mitchell was the first person ever to discover a comet via telescope that was too remote to see with the naked eye. Her discovery would be named "Miss Mitchell's Comet." King Frederick VI of Denmark had offered a prize for such first identifications of telescopic comets, and awarded her a gold medal.

She also became famous for leading her female astronomy students on expeditions to see eclipses in Iowa (1869) and in Denver (1878). Their observations would reach a national scientific audience. Her goal - bold at that time - was to encourage other women into her profession, at the dawn of America’s scientific age. Later astronomers honored her by naming a lunar crater "Mitchell Crater."

Following in Mitchell’s footsteps to witness solar eclipses, Carol Prusa was inspired to create these new works by the life-changing effects she felt while witnessing eclipses in Nebraska and Chile.

Prusa’s favorite quote by Mitchell captures the spirit of this exhibition: "We seize only a little bit of the curtain that hides the infinite from us."

There were many women astronomers throughout history who led the charge in the field of astronomy, but with little recognition. Prusa’s new suite of prints challenges this lapse by honoring these women astronomers: Maria Mitchell, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Annie Jump Cannon, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Vera Rubin, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

The portfolio of new prints by Prusa is called Galaxias Kyklos (the Greek term for the Milky Way), and the title page gloriously depicts Ourania, the muse of astronomy in Greek mythology.

Other artworks in the exhibition are dedicated to women who served as human "computers" at the Harvard Observatory in the 19th century, painstakingly analyzing the many glass photographic plates from observatories around the world to map the stars.

The earnings of these women were substantially less than men in their field, and their labor too went unrecognized. Another woman scientist honored in this body of work is Rebecca Elson. She was a theoretical astrophysicist whose research focused on dark matter who died of lymphoma in 1999 at the young age of 39 and was also an accomplished poet.

"I am especially drawn to ideas and experiences that unsettle and coalesce in my art," said Prusa. "Seeing a total eclipse for the first time, I was blown away by a euphoric feeling of floating, I was so moved that I literally fell backward."

"When the shadow of the eclipse passed over, the world changed in a way I had never experienced before. The sun became a sharp black disc, Venus popped out and the sky to my right was night and to my left it was day. I was compelled to create this body of work to come to terms with this overwhelming feeling," adds Prusa.

The ethereal video below is part of the interior of one of the new artworks created for this exhibition:

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