A show of works by Monica Petty Aiello at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center


In 1610, Galileo aimed his primitive telescope at the mighty Jupiter where he spied four "starlets" circling the planet.  These Galilean Moons orbit their parent planet like a mini-solar system and their discovery helped to prove that the earth was not the center of the universe.

While vacationing in New Mexico six years ago, I had the opportunity to see these moons with my own eyes through a telescope.  The view, both exhilarating and humbling, began my journey to explore the mysterious landscapes beyond Earth in paint.

More than just representing the visual landscape, I’m interested in letting the geology inform how I make the work.  In this regard, I research the evolution of the worlds I’m addressing and develop specific techniques to interpretc their geologic history. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to consult with noted space scientists involved with NASA’s Voyager, Galileo, Magellan, Cassini and New Horizons missions. I also regularly attend NASA and scientific conferences to further research the geomorphology of the worlds I’m painting. While teaching in California in 2009, I was able to work directly with scientific experts who study Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa, inspiring me to further dissect their bizarre geology.

Io and Europa are a study in dichotomy. Although these worlds are sisters in terms of proximity, their orbital dance with each other and Jupiter evoke tidal stresses that have created quite different personalities. Io, the fire moon, is peppered with volcanoes, sensual lava flows, erupting gas plumes and a colorful, sulfur-stained surface. In contrast, Europa’s pale, icy crust is riddled with fractures, lines and bands - hiding a global ocean beneath.  To interpret these qualities, I’ve built works on panel with layer upon layer of mixed-media - constructed like strata to emulate their geomorphololgy.  I use acrylic, paper, ink, gel, fiber, heat, air, gravity and water in attempts to convey and contrast their fascinating terrain.  At its essence, the Io series (Ionian Garden) is concerned with color, shape and painterly effects. Conversely, the newer Europa series (Europascape) is engaged in a study of drawing, line, neutrality and value. For both series, I’ve developed studies on paper whereby I stain the surface with impressions of the texture utilized in the larger works.

Space scientists often reference the need to study the beyond in order to better understand ourselves.  Indeed, while working I am often impacted by how these alien landscapes are hauntingly familiar.  Io’s giant volcanoes, lava flows, and intense color remind me of blooming gardens, coral reefs and philodendron leaves.  Europa’s barren, icy planes and cracked surface conjure images of the fragile polar caps on our own home, Earth. It is impossible for this investigation to not raise questions relating to astrobiology, evolution and our own humanity.

- Monica Aiello, 2009