| Apollo in Black
and White started because of a piece I had seen at a New England
Wood Carvers show before I was a member. That piece was on the subject
of whaling, and the work consisted of a large center panel, surrounded
on all sides by smaller reliefs depicting particular related scenes. It
was of an overall regular rectangular shape, as ABW started to be.
It was finished with stain and poly, clearly wood, which was suitable to
its subject. The motif intrigued me, and that predated the subject matter.
Inspiration came from this piece
by Marge Bernard.
The subject for the work grew out of my long
fascination with the US space program and the “Space Race” that led from
exploding test rockets in Florida, to footsteps on the moon. I have clear
memories of watching Alan Shepard’s short suborbital flight; and found
it unbelievable when, at summer camp, the director had no intention of
letting us go inside to the TV room to watch Gus Grissom’s liftoff! Naturally,
I took the only appropriate action possible and caused myself to vomit,
thus proving I needed to be sent inside to lie down– in the TV room; and
I remember sitting on my grandfather’s living room floor during school
vacation and watching John Glenn’s flight from start to finish. These were
exciting times! We were going to the moon! And every moment of it was broadcast
by all three networks!
This would be the centerpiece
of my multipaneled motif!
That was the first piece I did for the series, and while doing it, especially the reflected images in the face plate, I changed the approach I was using to carving.
I am not certain exactly what brought it about, given the intense contrasts
of the image, it seemed natural enough: I started carving for light rather
than form. That is, rather than trying to exactly duplicate the forms I
could make out in the photo, (except reducing the third dimension in 50
proportion to the depth of the relief,) I started carving to create light
shadow to relate the imagery. This showed most notably in the
face plate reflections, which no longer exist due to design changes. I
was to use this technique again many years later in the relief, Portrait
The altering of the faceplate came about as part of the change made to make the piece black and white, and believe me, it was a very difficult act to cut away that section.
I had decided to paint the piece after having shown the finished center panel to several people and had heard quite enough of “how beautiful the wood” was: after all the work and detail I had put into this piece, I didn’t want the perception of the imagery distracted by the wood. After much consideration, I came upon a solution that delighted me, though it did demand that difficult act of cutting away of the carving on the faceplate.
In tribute to the White Room that sat around the capsule before launch, and the general sterile environment maintained throughout space operations, I decided to paint the whole thing white.
But what really sold me on this was the idea I came up with for the negative spaces, to represent the void of space, the isolation of the journey, to do those in black: and that for the absolute black that I needed, to inlay those areas with black velvet! This was a brilliant solution, and justified my going forward with the major changes it would require, for it did require deepening a bit all areas where the black velvet would be applied, and thus, the face plate imagery had to be carved away.
I decided to wrap the frame elements in foil, as certain parts of the space vehicle were, but the gold foil used on those looked simply terrible against the black and white, so I undid it all, taking the whole thing apart to do so, and re-wrapped it all in silver foil, which worked beautifully.
Each element of the frame was wrapped individually, and then all were attached to the plywood backing that holds those, and all the panels, in place.
Apollo in Black and White occupied me for many years and went through several permutations. Actual dates on it were from 1976 to 1988. During this period, I had studied art in NYC, and this led me to go back and once again, make major changes to the piece, including replacing two panels completely, and altering others. I also altered the framing significantly from a simple rectangular frame, to the present configuration.
During this period, I also visited Kennedy Space Center more than once, and studied the exhibits, as well as consulting with some people there, a Burt Prince being one I remember in particular. [At that time, KSC was much more open, and I was actually inside the Vehicle Assembly Building; and I laid my own hand upon a tread of the Crawler- experiences no longer available to the general public. Some of my experiences there form bits in my novel Haltia and the Third Planet.]
Apollo in Black and White was my “contribution” to the space program. This was a very special period in history, one of the few times in the man’s history in which an entire nation was inspired and mobilized for something other than war, even if it was a facet of the Cold War. It touched people in virtually every area of the country, if not with an actual job related to getting ready to go, then at least in the spirit behind it. And we all watched it live, on TV!
the Orbiter window.
of the lunar surface.
left: The view from the window of the Orbiter of the separated Lunar Lander.
right: The Launch of Apollo 11 as seen on a tower mounted camera.
APOLLO IN BLACK AND WHITE
D JUDSON HINDES
32x37 inches; white pine; painted; inlaid black velvet; aluminum foil
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