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  Apollo 15: Paul van Hoeydonck's "Fallen Astronaut"

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Author Topic:   Apollo 15: Paul van Hoeydonck's "Fallen Astronaut"
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-16-2013 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slate has a fascinating article out today about the memorial sculpture left on the moon by the Apollo 15 crew.
At 12:18 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Aug. 2, 1971, Commander David Scott of Apollo 15 placed a 3 1/2-inch-tall aluminum sculpture onto the dusty surface of a small crater near his parked lunar rover. At that moment the moon transformed from an airless ball of rock into the largest exhibition space in the known universe. Scott regarded the moment as tribute to the heroic astronauts and cosmonauts who had given their lives in the space race. Van Hoeydonck was thrilled that his art was pointing the way to a human destiny beyond Earth and expected that he would soon be "bigger than Picasso."

In reality, van Hoeydonck's lunar sculpture, called Fallen Astronaut, inspired not celebration but scandal. Within three years, Waddell's gallery had gone bankrupt. Scott was hounded by a congressional investigation and left NASA on shaky terms. Van Hoeydonck, accused of profiteering from the public space program, retreated to a modest career in his native Belgium. Now both in their 80s, Scott and van Hoeydonck still see themselves unfairly maligned in blogs and Wikipedia pages — to the extent that Fallen Astronaut is remembered at all...

Here, for the first time, we tell the full, tangled tale behind one of the smallest yet most extraordinary achievements of the Space Age.

GACspaceguy
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Posts: 1655
From: Guyton, GA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 12-16-2013 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just read the article and it is well worth the read, very interesting.

Teacher in space
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Registered: Sep 2013

posted 12-17-2013 12:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Teacher in space     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interresting, but a bit sad story.

mode1charlie
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Posts: 673
From: Honolulu, HI, USA
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 12-17-2013 02:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I knew the broad outlines of this story before, but not the richness of detail in the essay. Very interesting.

I was also very surprised to learn that Apollo 16 and 17 came very close to being cancelled by Nixon in August 1971, and were saved mainly through the intervention of Caspar Weinberger, who was WH Budget Director at the time.

Philip
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Posts: 5039
From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 12-17-2013 07:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a beautiful piece of art...

At the 2012 Space Week meeting of the STS-45 crew in Belgium, Artist Paul Van Hoeydonck offered a "Fallen Astronaut" to the dean of Liège University.

I believe a limited number of these art pieces were offered during an art exhibition in New York at $750 a piece.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-17-2013 07:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Philip:
I believe a limited number of these art pieces were offered during an art exhibition in New York at $750 a piece.
The Slate article includes the history behind this sale and why they were not well received (by NASA, by the astronauts or by the art crowd in New York).

ea757grrl
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Posts: 616
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 12-17-2013 07:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many thanks for the link, Robert. I knew the broad outlines of the story, but the detail in the Slate piece was just marvelous. Thanks for an excellent read on a long December's night.

spaced out
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Posts: 2750
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 12-17-2013 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a nice article.

Reading it now I find it difficult to believe that people really thought the artist would be happy to remain anonymous after the event, even if 'only' for a year.

I would say anyone who creates something is likely to want some recognition for their creation, it's just human nature. A proud artist with an ego to match is very unlikely to sit back and stay quiet when he is the creator of the 'first art on another planet'.

Making examples of the sculpture for sale was clearly against the spirit of the original agreement but it sounds like this came about as a reaction to his failing to get the recognition he felt he deserved, rather than being the intention of the artist from the beginning.

In this respect it's quite different to the Seiger covers issue but behind both messes seems to be a common thread of naivety on the part of Scott.

My impression is that he treated these people as if they were honor-bound military types when clearly they lived in a different world.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-17-2013 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How many of the Apollo patch artists sought out publicity, or even recognition, for designing the emblems? For the most part, they never profited or benefited from their art, though they certainly took the same pride in seeing it flown to the surface of the moon.

What I found most interesting about the Slate article was that despite their access to van Hoeydonck, it did not paint the artist in a favorable light.

spaced out
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Posts: 2750
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 12-17-2013 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Indeed he comes across as egotistical, but that's my point. Who could be surprised that an artist with that character would want the world to know of his amazing achievement (as he would see it)?

Teacher in space
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posted 12-17-2013 01:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Teacher in space     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the biggest problem was that the astronauts did not understand what the artist wanted to express with his artwork. They changed it to something else. For artist's point of view his work was not completed before he could tell to audience what he wanted to express when making this sculpture.

Illustration artwork (patch designs could be like that) is mentally very different to do than art. That's why you can't compare this sculptor to patch artists.

Philip
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From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 12-18-2013 02:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's an amazing story and Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck (who regularly signed books at exhibitions) will for ever be associated with the "Fallen Astronaut."

A few months ago a poster of the New York exhibition came up for sale on eBay. Here a Fallen Astronaut in some kind of presentation box.

Philip
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Posts: 5039
From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 12-18-2013 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good overview of space art publications on the official website of Paul Van Hoeydonck.

chet
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Posts: 1416
From: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 12-18-2013 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The article was a very interesting read.

As for the left-on-the-moon sculpture itself, I can't disagree with the "glorified tuning fork" description of it. Wasn't my cup of tea, but it did cleanly, neatly, simply fulfill its purpose of representing fallen astronauts, I suppose.

KSCartist
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From: Titusville, FL USA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 12-18-2013 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I read the article with great interest. It surprises me that the intention of Scott was not communicated clearly with van Hoeydonck. Nor was the symbolism behind the sculpture. The artist intended it to be a positive celebration of man kinds achievement. Scott intended it to be a memorial.

I think if Scott had announced who had created the piece when he announced its existence, it might have gone a long way to soothing bruised egos. Since he was not paid for the work, he deserved to be credited as more than a "workman."

As an artist who has had the pleasure of donating time and talent to NASA crews, my "pay off" is the memory of working with my heroes. I strongly agree that every patch artist deserves public credit for their work - from Cece Bibby to Blake Dumesnil.

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