On Christmas, 1949, twelve-year-old Oregonian Frank Hettick received a copy of Willy Ley's book, Conquest of Space. The book's stunning astronomical paintings by Chesley Bonestell (who would later do matte paintings for Stanley Kubrick's 2001) fascinated him, and he began creating tempera paintings of his own along rocketeering themes, studying rendering and perspective in high school, and participating in the growing space fever of the 1950s and 1960s, which he and others now deem "The Golden Age of Space Art."
That tradition did not end with the advent of real space travel, however; the knowledge gained from satellites, robotic probes, and various forms of radio astronomy and computer imaging have been eagerly assimilated by space artists, as is demonstrated by Out of This World: The Landscapes of Our Solar System at St. Mary's College's Hearst Art Gallery. It is a treat for adult science and art aficionados as well as budding future Hetticks (though not for small children, probably). Developed by the gallery's Carrie Brewster and Saint Mary's College professor of astronomy and physics Ronald P. Olowin, the show boasts a wealth of scientific information (frozen nitrogen geysers on Venus' Triton, Mercury's 700-degree daily temperature shifts, a possible subterranean ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa) integrated with dazzling images of the cosmological sublime in a range of media: paintings by Joe Bergeron, Michael Carroll, Kevin Davies, Don Dixon, Mark A. Garlick, David Hardy, William K. Hartmann, Frank Hettick, John Kaufmann, Ron Miller, Walter B. Myers, and Kees Veenenbos, along with books (including Miller's/Hartmann's The Grand Tour) featuring their work; photographs from the Voyager 1 and 2, Cassini and Mars Rover exploratory missions; a beautifully designed interactive introduction to our solar system by sophomore Daniel Walsh; a NASA mini-documentary, Journey to the Planets and Beyond, narrated by Harrison Ford; a flyby simulation of Mars' immense and spectacular Mariner Valley, large enough to contain the Los Angeles basin with ease; a Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter globe; and a model of Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Rover set against a typical Red Planet landscape. Out of This World runs through December 13 at Hearst Art Gallery (St. Mary's College, 1928 St. Mary's Road, Moraga). StMarys-ca.edu/arts/hearst-art-gallery or 925-631-4379.