Ed Belbruno: Former NASA Analyst Transmits The Wonder of Celestial Chaos Into Painting
Ed Belbruno’s abstract expressionist paintings gesture towards the chaotic motion and vastness of outer space. A gaze informed by his experience as an orbital analyst, he has observed the unmanned planetary spacecraft missions; Galileo, Magellan, Cassini, Ulysses, and the Mars Observer. His artistic process is entangled with mathematics and science, drawing inspiration from witnessing the beauty of these orbital bodies, the work unfolds as a dialogue between these fields. His paintings capture an oceanic feeling of the seemingly boundless entity of space, he emerges at the edge of the earth, grasping through the stratosphere towards the otherworldly.
Innovating chaos theory’s application to space flight, as a former NASA scientist, he laid the groundwork for the development of low-energy paths for spacecraft navigation. When one views his work, there is a resemblance between a loose mapping within the paintings and the line quality of this path-like celestial motion. His work is a melding of intuitive and concrete movements based in what he has witnessed, a search for harmony between earth, sky and the abyss of outer space.
“My mathematics deals with chaotic motions, but when I create art, my mind is in a completely different mode…my subconscious comes into play.”
His artistic process allows him to access the depths of what he calls his subconscious. The earlier work, particularly the Black Night Series are paintings imbued with mystery, largely depicting the raw barrenness of what landscape painting can achieve. Rooted and reliant on darkness, the vacant scenes collapse difference between earth and the land on other planets. The artist describes his earlier work:
“Many paintings show isolated monolithic structures with an unearthly appearance…these earlier paintings depict stark scenes of twilight casting ominous light on crows and trees.”
Shifting in medium and style over the years, he has transitioned into a more diverse and dynamic color palette, a stroke which texturizes the surface of the canvas, rendering an abstract expressionist aesthetic which exudes a vibratory quality. He was compelled to move towards this style for his Microwave Series, where he aimed to depict the remnants of microwave radiation as an effect of the big bang.
Utilizing the medium of acrylic paint he has also developed a series of works called the Drip Series, where gravity works with the medium, as he allows varying viscosities of paint to fall onto the canvas until the image emerges. His most recent work is a turn towards a more field-like abstraction which evokes a Rothko like musicality, returning to darker hues, blues, and blacks which resemble snippets and glimpses of the night sky.
Insistent on the projection of an alternate sense of reality he relies on both visible and invisible realms, all the while remaining influenced by his logic-centered profession of astrophysicist/ mathematician. His move from depicting recognizable earthly elements, to a rhythmically vibrant and textured abstraction, locates where his subconscious wanders, if only for a moment.
Belbruno currently lives in New Jersey, where he balances his full-time art career with a position at Princeton University. He recent years he has received Germany’s prestigious Humboldt Research Award for his achievements in mathematics.