Internationally acclaimed artist to lead evening of stargazing at UC Santa Cruz

Russell Crotty, M15 Globular Cluster in Pegasus, 2001, Ink on paper on fiberglass sphere 4

Russell Crotty, M15 Globular Cluster in Pegasus, 2001, Ink on paper on fiberglass sphere 45 inch diameter, Collection of MOCA Miami.


Russell Crotty with Lick Observatory Support Astronomer Paul Lynam and the Great Refractor
Russell Crotty with Lick Observatory Support Astronomer Paul Lynam and the Great Refractor telescope. (Photo by John Weber)

Acclaimed artist Russell Crotty and the grad student-led Astronomy Club will present an evening of stargazing on the hillside above UC Santa Cruz’s Great Meadow on October 14.

Observers will have the opportunity to examine the night sky through a battery of the club’s telescopes trained on the stars and planets, as well as look at the cosmos through the eyes of the 2015 Guggenheim Award-winning artist.

Crotty is known internationally for his drawings and sculpture based on direct astronomical observation--investigating the cosmos and exploring the nature of the universe through art. His astronomical drawings, sculpture, and large-scale artist-made books are in major collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.

He is currently artist-in-residence at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, collaborating with the UC Lick Observatory and Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz to create a new body of work, which will be exhibited at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) beginning in Fall 2016.

“I suspect that this will be quite different from any star party I’ve been to,” Crotty noted. “It will be different because there will be a lot of really smart grad students from astrophysics that bring out the telescopes and will probably rattle off a lot of really interesting information about everything.”

“For me, I’m a visual observer,” he added. “When I sweep the cosmos with my own telescopes, I’m always looking for something indescribably beautiful: an ancient star cluster in our own galaxy, or a globular star cluster, or the subtlety of a planetary image. So for me, it’s kind of a very special visual experience. It’s very hard to convey as a visual artist, but I’ve made attempts for 20 years to do that. It’s always a challenge.”

The evening will begin with a brief talk by Crotty about his art practice and his experience at Lick, and with the Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC) working group on campus. Everyone will then move onto the hillside above the Great Meadow, where the graduate students will bring out the UC Santa Cruz telescopes. Warm beverages will be provided by the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

“A lot of people look at the stars and have no idea that if you magnify an area of the sky, you’re going to see some amazing things,” said Crotty. “If you’re not an observer and haven’t really looked at telescopes, it’s a breathtaking experience. At this time of year, we have a lot of beautiful things--in fact, October is one of the best months to observe.”

Crotty described what people might expect at the event, which takes place in the dark of a new moon.

“I think people will see things like planetary nebulae: very subtle stars that have died, they’ve expanded and lost their shell of gas, illuminating a shape that is very ghostly,” said Crotty. “If they have any interest at all and want to see something bigger than themselves and the controlled world we live in, this is a great way to use your imagination and look at these things that way."

"Meanwhile, I think the grad students will fill people in--on the distance to a certain object, what the components are of the object, how the object happened, how old is the object--all of these things.“

“I’m eternally enthusiastic about this stuff,” he added. “It’s just so exciting to be able to do this, and have super smart kids working with the scopes, because I want to hear what they have to say too!  And I can wax lyrical as an artist about  the subtlety, and the beauty, and the colors…”

Stargazing with artist Russell Crotty takes place on Wednesday, October 14. Attendees should meet in front of the Digital Arts Research Center at 7:30 p.m. (Note: If weather conditions obscure the sky, the event will be held at the same time and location on October 20). This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at