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Sherri Smith Explains the Impact of Webb Space Telescope Images on Art

sherri's interruption of images from space
Sherri Smith / Great Cosmic Census / 76″ x 76″ / woven fiber / 2011 

The new James Webb Space Telescope images released on July 12 are offering groundbreaking insights to scientists and space enthusiasts. The findings may even apply to how artists portray the world through their art, according to Sherri Smith, a renowned fiber artist and Professor Emerita of Art at the Stamps School of Art & Design. 

Smith’s current woven fiber series centers on astronomy and is inspired by NASA images, old astronomy drawings and lunar maps. 

While Smith is currently working on a 7‑foot piece portraying a supernova, she plans to utilize the telescope images in her series. 

NASA’s new images give viewers some of the most detailed space perspectives to date. This is important for artists like Smith, who depict the copyright-free images as realistically as possible. 

Smith says that NASA’s image and video library, which includes the telescope images, is a great resource for artists who need free inspiration.

I regard NASA as my personal employee that can produce very interesting images all the time,” Smith said. I’ve worked on things that I ran out of useful images for, but that won’t happen with NASA. They are always coming out with new images.” 

Outside of the fiber medium, other artists are known to portray space using watercolor, quilting and more, Smith says. The Webb images will give the community more inspiration for their pieces. 

If people aren’t already interested in space and NASA’s new images, then the astronomy-related artwork might get more people involved.

If people aren’t paying attention to these space images already, then these art pieces may play the role of getting them to look harder,” Smith said. 

Smith’s medium is a unique approach to depicting astronomy images accurately due to its textured and rich surface. The practice also combines old art techniques with new scientific findings.

It’s kind of a kick to use one of the very oldest technologies to depict some of the very newest images,” Smith said. People have been weaving for more than 10,000 years, but these images are hot off the press.” 

You can learn more about Sherri Smith’s Astronomy series at sher​ri​smith​fiber​.net. One of her pieces is also on display at the Department of Astronomy on campus.