July from the Series The Sun
Los Angeles-based artist Aspen Mays uses science as a lens to explore the vexing and unanswerable questions of life: Questions about the the limits of knowledge, the nature of existence and feelings of cosmic loneliness. Many of Aspen’s projects are realized with the help of scientists and other experts. She worked with the Adler planetarium in Chicago to send a lawnchair and a digital camera up to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. For another project called Sun Ruins she hung out with astrophysicists at an observatory in Chilie and made work using discarded prints and negatives she found in their abandoned darkroom.
Among these bigger projects are individual photographic works that in their beauty and simplicity help us see the world in a new way. There’s the dissection of a magic 8-ball whose deep blue fluid recalls the edge of space. There’s a highlighter-yellow color field photograph made by placing fireflies inside a camera. And then there are images exposed by TV static, 1 % of this static, NASA tells us is cosmic radiation left over from the Big Bang.
Recently I spoke with Aspen Mays over Skype. We talked about the boundaries between art and science, the role photography plays in her work, and what it was like to experience the 6th largest earthquake ever recorded (8.8 magnitude if you’re curious) while working on a project in Chile.
Punched Out Stars
1% of This is From the Big Bang, TV Static photogram
Get stuck between the present and the past with this sweet and powerful song. | read