Greg Mort – Where universes come together


Karnac, (2008), oil on panel, 13.5 x 10.5 in

Karnac pays homage to Russell W. Porter, an acclaimed turn-of-the 20th-century artist, arctic explorer, and ‘Father of Amateur Astronomy,’ known as the ‘Leonardo of New England.’ Porter was gifted the 3600-year-old bronze cat from Karnac, Egypt, by one of his many admirers. His daughter left it to me in her estate. My personal passion for the night sky inspired this tribute, which also includes other Porter treasures, such as a handmade lens, his drafting tools and paint tubes. Fieldstone Castle – my home and studio in Port Clyde, Maine – was part of Porter’s summer homestead, and I have collected Porter memorabilia for many years.

Combining the objects, their variations in patina and texture and the message each held were a source of fascination. The well-worn cat stimulates the eye, contrasting with the smoother, warm red wood backdrop. The masking triangle behind the proud feline is reminiscent of the great pyramids of Giza, framing a moth symbolic of those who brave the night in search of celestial wonders. The small section of a star chart illustrates the well-known constellation of Orion, the hunter. Tucked behind the wing of the moth is a key peculiarly pulled off plumb, a tip of the hat to Albert Einstein’s notion of gravity as a curvature of space-time itself. A small contemporary cutout of the planet Mars helps date the piece to our time in history. The cat wares a tag with the digits 137, perhaps the most famous number in mathematics. The white satin ribbon connects the star chart with the unseen world behind Porter’s case only to reappear and disappear, suggesting one model for a universe that finite but unbounded, folding back in on itself. (Brandywine River Museum)

 One Wold, (2008), oil on masonite panel, (in the collection of United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice)

American artist Greg Mort is widely recognized as a leading influence in contemporary art. Mort’s unmistakably modern paintings have the classic feel of the Dutch Masters but are juxtaposed with startlingly modern designs. His paintings are included in many prominent collections including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Delaware Art Museum, Academy Art Museum, Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth, the Bradywine River Museum and many more.

Stream of Stars, (1984)

At age thirteen Mort’s perspective on the universe was altered forever when he first viewed the heavens through a neighbor’s crude telescope. Thus began a life-long passion for astronomy, space travel and the night sky. Mort’s vocation and avocation continue to intersect as he portrays mankind’s intimate ties with the cosmos. A commissioned NASA artist since 1983 he also served on the Board of Visitors at the McDonald Observatory, creating large-scale murals recording the historic construction of their Hobby-Eberly Telescope. He is a frequent speaker on the collaboration of art and science and presently serves on the Executive Board of the Lowell Observatory and the Night Sky Conservation Foundation.

When Stars Align, oil on board, 16 x 24 in

Mort’s childhood space dreams first became a reality in 1983 when he was recruited by NASA for its “American Artist and the Space Shuttle” program. In this first of many NASA commissions he portrayed Sally Ride’s historic STS 7 shuttle flight in a series of powerful watercolors that are now on display at Cape Canaveral. His eloquent visions of the night sky have been featured worldwide in the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition “The Artist and the Space Shuttle,” as well as in numerous magazines and books including Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. He recently completed a painting to honor Astronaut Barbara Morgan, who flew on shuttle mission STS 118 as the first teacher in space. Mort considers his selection as a NASA artist a true privilege and one of the highest honors he has experienced as an artist. In 2008 his painting ZERO – G Apples was included on the first art exhibition in space aboard the International Space Station.

Zero G Apples, (2008), watercolor on 100% cotton 140lbs hot pressed paper

Port Clyde, Maine is home and studio to Mort and his family for part of the year with clear night skies yielding unequaled astronomical viewing and artistic inspiration. Mort winters in Ashton, Maryland a historic Quaker village in the shadow of the nation’s capital where noted powerbrokers have gained an appreciation of Mort’s art.

Today he counts among his collectors former President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, the Bush family, American and foreign diplomats as well as scholars and scientists from around the globe. Recently Ann Druyan, wife of the late Dr. Carl Sagan commissioned him to paint Dr. Sagan’s portrait. This painting has been acquired by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center’s permanent collection.

Stewardship II (commission for Vice President Al Gore)

Throughout his lifetime Greg Mort’s paintings have reflected the wonders and beauty of the natural world. Stewardship I was painted in 1991 at his Port Clyde, Maine studio and was destined soon to become part of President and Mrs. Bill Clinton’s collection during their early days in the White House. Mort had just read Earth in the Balance when he received the special commission to paint Stewardship II for then Vice President Al Gore. Mort created Stewardship III in 2004 to celebrate his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and is now part of a private collection in Boston, Massachusetts.

Stewardship III, (2004), watercolor

Stewardship IV was inspired in 2007 to mark Mort’s thirtieth year of painting in Maine and is part of the David H. Hickman Collection recently gifted to the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland.

Stewardship IV, (2007), (David . Hickman Collection, Academy Art Museum)

In 2008 the Mort family established The Art of Stewardship Project to promote stewardship of the earth and environmental awareness through the arts.

The following video is in celebrating Greg Mort’s partnership with Circle of Blue in continuation of his environmental awareness efforts. Circle of Blue is the international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications design experts that reports and presents the information necessary to respond to the global freshwater crisis. It is a nonprofit affiliate of the internationally recognized water, climate and policy think tank, the Pacific Institute. Mort’s paintings reflect his passion for the earth’s precious natural resources.

The following is an overview of Greg Mort’s NIGHTWATCH exhibition showing his stunning watercolor and oil paintings. This exhibit was created with Mort’s inspiration by Percival Lowell and his life long fascination with our universe, particularly the planet Mars Lowell drew sketches of.

Fabric of Space, (1985), watercolor

These paintings were shown at the Lowell Observatory, a research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, in Flagstaff Arizona.

Through the eyes of the artists we can become more appreciative of nature and the earth we live on by observing and sharing the basic creations of life.

Greg Mort’s Website

thassey-10Teia Pearson reconnected with her passion of writing after a car accident in 2003. She has a background education in literature and radiology. Currently she works on her memoir while writing and editing for the arts in Chicago, IL.