Close Approach


Completed by Artist Joe O'Connell under the Creative Machines artist team, Close Approach is a multi-part installation featuring two suspended sculptures and an artist-designed Artwall.
The suspended artwork is comprised of two monumental scale globes representing Jupiter and its moon, Io. The globes are comprised of stainless steel and colorful glass. Color changing LED lighting emanates from inside of Jupiter as it slowly rotates in the breezeway, casting colorful projections on the walls, floor, and building residents.

The art screen is an integral part of the experience, particularly when the space is dark enough for the moving projections from Jupiter to be seen. Together with the light projected from the suspended components of Close Approach, the art screen creates the feeling of being in outer space in close proximity to huge celestial bodies.

These sculptures of Jupiter and Io are a tribute to the Voyager mission and the culture of the 1970s that launched it. The spot where you are standing lies on a line directly connecting Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the institutions that designed and managed the mission. In 1977, Voyager I and II launched on missions of “close approach” to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and many of these planets’ moons. The first set of images to come back showed Jupiter in great detail; our largest planet, it is mostly swirling gas. Shortly afterward, data from Io revealed that it is the most volcanically active body in our solar system.

The Voyager mission had a cultural significance that went beyond scientific discovery. It was designed during the final years of the Vietnam war, during the Watergate scandal and amid cold war nuclear tensions. An important feature of the mission is that it would produce two spacecraft that would be the first human-made objects to leave our solar system. Some of the scientists on the project thought that it might be the last best thing that humanity would leave behind. It is likely that the Voyager spacecraft will continue traveling towards other stars for billions of years beyond the lifespan of our own earth, perhaps the only remnant of humanity. The Gold Record that included music and greetings from all over the world captured the public’s imagination. It was one of the first ‘world music’ compilations and remains interesting to this day.

Lighting Mixed Media Sculpture
Creative Machines
Jupiter - 96" diameter, Io (Moon) 30" diameter, Art Wall approximately 25' x 13'

711 E. Walnut Street

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