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From Goldilocks to high art to space suits: Trio of art exhibits open at National Air and Space Museum
Portrait of artist Angela Palmer during the installation of her “Searching for Goldilocks” sculpture at the National Air and Space Museum. Searching for Goldilocks is on view at the museum in Washington, DC from July 26 - December 1, 2013. Photo by Eric Long, Smithsonian Institution.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Question: What do aerospace-themed art, the search for planets capable of supporting life and space suits have in common? Answer: All three subjects are together in the National Air and Space Museum’s Flight and the Arts Gallery.

On July 26, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., opened “High Art: A Decade of Collecting,” “Searching for Goldilocks” and “Suited for Space.” Although each of the exhibitions takes a uniquely artistic approach to exploring space and aviation, housed together the trio encourages visitors to stretch their imaginations and discover new ways of appreciating flight.

High Art: A Decade of Collecting showcases 50 pieces of art acquired by the museum during the past 10 years. These pieces bring the static collection of airplanes and spacecraft in the museum to vibrant new life. The exhibition includes three sections: “Visions of Flight” (conceptual works), “Faces of Flight” (portraits) and “Looking Back” (works related to historical events). Works by Fran Forman and Berndnaut Smilde create surreal visions of imagined worlds through photography while real pilots and astronauts, such as Lise Lemeland and Alan Bean, share their own recollections of flight. Annie Leibovitz offers an iconic portrait of Eileen Collins as a confident and determined space shuttle commander, and Albert Watson captures the beauty of the museum’s own space suit collection.

Searching for Goldilocks is a sculpture by Angela Palmer that is made up of 18 sheets of engraved glass representing the first 46 worlds identified by NASA’s Kepler Observatory as Goldilocks planets. Goldilocks planets are those that are similar to Earth in that they can support life—not too hot, not too cold, just right. While the mission of the Kepler Observatory is to search for these types of planets, Palmer’s mission was to capture the spirit of that search in a sculpture. Each sheet of glass represents a slice of space 250 light-years thick and the engraved circles represent the stars within that region of space. Together, the pieces capture the beauty and enormity of the universe. “Searching for Goldilocks” is made possible through the support of the Smithsonian United Kingdom Charitable Trust.

Suited for Space, produced by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition (SITES) in conjunction with the museum, explores the evolution of spacesuit development from the first quarter of the 20th century until the dawn of the shuttle era. The display consists of stunning photographs and X-ray images of these “one-person space ships” taken by Smithsonian photographer Mark Avino. These images give audiences an up-close view that they would not otherwise be able to see since the fragility of the spacesuit collection prevents objects from being on regular view to the public. Supported by Dupont, “Suited for Space” is on a national tour that will take it to 10 other museums and science centers.

The three exhibitions will be open to the public at the museum through Dec. 1.

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