• Julie Urbanik

Earth as Art


What happens when you combine Earth, art, and satellites? It turns out that what happens is truly sublime. These images, from NASA's Earth as Art series, provide a powerful way to meditate on our relationship to the planet and the planet itself.

Since 1960, US observational satellites, known as Landsats, have been sending back data on our changing planet. While this data has been invaluable for research scientists, it has also provided an alternate way to view the Earth as art - as both abstract and concrete lines, flows, colors, shapes, shadows, patterns, and textures. The images they have compiled for this collection were chosen solely for their aesthetic qualities and have been enhanced to draw out more details and colors.

I, myself, can not get enough of these images. They invigorate my mind in all sorts of ways. I see faces, catch glimpses of animal coloring or the brush strokes of artists. I want to run my fingers over them feeling the topography, the escarpments, the valley floors, and the puffs of clouds. I want to bathe in the colors and I do. I close my eyes and vision violet, jade, and lemon. I look around me and find colors that match Iceland, Algeria, Mongolia, Peru - all while I am in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. I gather my computer, my globe, and my world atlas together and look closely at the Turpan Depression, the Aleutian Islands, the Kalahari Desert - the search, the success of the find, the determination to remember - all part of the endorphin reward of discovery.

But there is also a calmness to seeing the planet in this way. When the noise of the world - all its troubles, all it politics, all its movement, all its media - becomes too much, I can turn here. I relax into the vastness of the scale of satellites and I consider they are watching me now. While most days the idea of being watched from space is Orwellian, in moments when I am connecting to these images the idea is wonderful. I see the colors and topography of the landscape I have built in my own yard as a tiny pixel in a satellite artwork of my own neighborhood - the striations of red roses here, the burst of fuchsia peonies there, the green grass foundation, the gray river-stone path, the rising mountain of maple tree all around a central tan structure that, to a satellite, denotes 'urban area' and, to me, denotes 'home on Earth.'

We invite you to spend some time and let us here at CS know what you see, what these images make you think, and/or how they make you feel!

#earth #NASA #landsat8

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