Possible Futures : Science Fiction Art From The Frank Collection, Re-Reading Science Fiction Art
Book Description:Jane and Howard Frank, the owners of the collection, write A Short History of the Collection; in their essay, they describe more than thirty-five years of collecting science fiction art, and their role as curators with the responsibility to build the collection and preserve it for future generations. Dorit Yaron, the catalogue editor, provides a brief but comprehensive overview of the history of the genre of science fiction art. Through her essay, we understand the origins of science fiction art, the major artists, and some of the forces that shaped its evolution to the present. Elizabeth Tobey uses an art historical approach for her essay in which she addresses the intriguing topic of architectural setting found in the paintings on view. She contends that science fiction artists are not solely engaging the new and unknown, but are using traditions shared by artists of the past, as part of the continuum of art history.
Two essays use popular culture as a framework for examining science fiction art. Greg Metcalf shows how the masculine heroes in the American literary genre known as "westerns" elide with the heroes of early science fiction pulps, and demonstrates how the cult of the western frontier with its native American "aliens" parallels the future frontier and the aliens of outer space. Maria Day delineates the parallels between the work of industrial designers and science fiction artists during the 1930s as they, respectively, developed machines for work, living, and transport, and created illustrations of the future. The two final essays take more philosophical approaches. Dabrina Taylor examines science fiction’s approaches to gender. She notes its particular failure to speculate about gender and its tendency to reiterate stereotypes. She cites the correspondence between "female" and "alien" and points to a number of paintings in the exhibition which present the male as seer and female as seen. The catalogue concludes with Matthew Hill’s essay which presents yet another view of the intertwining of reality and fiction, science and playful imagination. At the core of his thesis is the conjecture that scientists, as well as science fiction writers and artists, make use of fantasy and speculation, and that such poetic dreaming is, in fact, instrumental to scientific thinking.
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