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A Gold Sculpture by Tavares Strachan Will Orbit Earth for 7 Years

Tavares Henderson Strachan is a contemporary, conceptual artist whose multi-media installations investigate science, technology, mythology, history, and exploration. He lives and works in New York City and Nassau, Bahamas.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has announced days out of the long-awaited launch of Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector sculpture into space, its plan to support the launch of a sculpture by the Bahaman artist Tavares Strachan. Both launches are planned for Monday, November 19, aboard SpaceX rockets. SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art came out with the opportunity to work with SpaceX via the Art Technology Lab, which awarded Strachan grant in 2014. Strachan worked with SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell to organize the launch of his project, a 24-karat gold bust of the late aerospace researcher and astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

The first African-American astronaut to be selected for any national space program was Lawrence. Who died in a supersonic jet crash before ever going into space? Though an accomplished Air Force pilot and the developer of the critical “flare” technique for space shuttle landing, NASA only acknowledged the extent of his contributions in 2017, on the 50th anniversary of his death.

A Biblical figure who eluded a mortal death by transcending directly to the afterlife Entitled Enoch, Strachan’s work references. The gold bust is combined with a base to resemble ancient Egyptian canopic jars, which preserved and protected the organs of the deceased for use in the afterlife. Strachan had the jar blessed at a Shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Japan, during which it was acknowledged as a container for Lawrence’s soul.

“Tavares Strachan’s Enoch exemplifies the LACMA Art + Technology Lab’s mission to foster conversations between talented artists and leading technology companies to realize collaborations that would not be otherwise possible,” Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director said in a statement. “Launching an artwork into space is a spectacular result of the program. More importantly, Tavares’s project justly honors an under recognized pioneer of NASA’s space program.”

This isn’t the first time the Bahamian artist’s work has explored the intersection of art and science. One of Strachan’s most iconic projects, The Distance between What We Have and What We Want from 2006 consisted of a 4.5-ton block of ice. Harvested in a river near Mount McKinley, then shipped Federal Express to the Bahamas, it was exhibited in transparent, freezer at a primary school in Nassau, where solar power kept it frozen. Earlier this year, the Allen Institute, a center for bioscience research founded by the late Paul Allen, hosted him as it’s first-ever artist-in-residence.

It was reported by the New York Times that Strachan has also built educational outreach into the project. He has installed “beacons” on the tops of school buildings in different countries, designed to light up whenever the satellite passes overhead.

The sculpture, which could orbit the Earth for up to 7 years, is set to be launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket currently scheduled to go up on Monday. SpaceX will provide a live stream of the rocket’s launch.

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