Jamie Molaro

What was the inspiration behind your artwork?

I’m a planetary scientist. I study how landscapes on other worlds evolve using data collected by spacecrafts. Science, the process of creating knowledge, is really a form of exploration. To scientists, exploration isn’t just about going to a place, it’s about understanding it. Using spacecraft data, we learn what the Moon’s landscape looks like and what processes caused it develop that way- impacts produce craters, boulders fracture and produce dust, volcanos deposit lava onto the surface, moonquakes cause landslides. But untangling the way all of these processes work is challenging and can be frustrating at times. I think creating art of the objects I study helps me to process their immense complexity, and to appreciate the beauty of that complexity without trying to articulate it. So I see art as a form of exploration in parallel to my research, one through which I explore my relationship to the subject of the art and to science itself. In this particular piece, I also wanted to honor one of the many female scientists, engineers, and mathematicians whose contributions to space exploration history has tended to forget.

What do you see as the similarity between science and art? Why is science-art important in today's society?

I think the process of creating knowledge naturally reflects the process of creating art in that aspect of exploration. Everything that we observe about a planet is a convolution of how it originally formed, overlain by its past and present experiences. Some experiences leave marks that we can observe and interpret, others are erased. We only get the muddled end result of it all. This is fundamentally true about people, societies, and the world too. So I think when we create art, we explore our subjects in a similar way, and the product that we produce reflects the complexity of our subject both in ways that we see and ways that we don’t. In my work, I also try to use art as a way to help others form a meaningful and personal connection to science without being expected to “understand” it. Science is a subject that many feel is beyond them in some way, but science- and data-driven art can help to erode the ivory tower. It’s a really powerful tool for facilitating public participation in science, by encouraging people to express what it is about space and space exploration inspires them, and defining how and why society values and benefits from scientific knowledge.

Get to know the artist!

Dr. Jamie Molaro is a Research Scientist studying the geology of other worlds at the Planetary Science Institute, with a joint affiliation at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Get in touch!

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @spacejammie

Behind the scenes