We live in a universe that is vast, deep, and dark, yet aglow even in the farthest reaches. Deep observations made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has recently uncovered surprising sources of light in the depths of the universe. Using an exquisite instrument known as the MUSE spectrograph in conjunction with the VLT, an international team of astronomers were able to see for the first time, dim clouds of hydrogen glowing with Lyman-alpha emissions in the early universe, revealing that almost the whole night sky is invisibly lit. The splendor of the universe has been an unending source of inspiration for artist Margaret Nazon who pays tribute to nature through her amazing beadwork, an beautiful demonstration of how science can inspire art.
Nazon began beading celestial objects after her partner showed her photographs of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009 — those now-iconic images that have inspired some of our greatest poets and enchanted the popular imagination like no other visual document of science.
Against the black velvet of pure spacetime, Nazon’s intricate beadwork reaches across incomprehensible expanses, making galaxies, nebulae, and constellations visible to the naked eye on her 25×25-inch beaded canvases.
Nazon grew up on the banks of the Mackenzie River in Canada’s Northwestern Territories, steeped in a crafts tradition. She started beading at age 10, making decorative flowers that blossomed half a century later into the dazzling objects of deep space, rendered using a variety of beading techniques and bead sizes to create dazzling and tactile works of art.
With no background in science and only a rudimentary understanding of astronomy, her work celebrates not the cerebral but the spiritual allure of the cosmos — the way it speaks to the most elemental part of us, the part that led Ptolemy to scribble in the margins of his notebook two millennia ago: “I know that I am mortal by nature and ephemeral, but when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies… I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.”
The material for this post is adapted from Maria Popova, “The Stunning Astronomical Beadwork of Native Artist Margaret Nazon” in her free blog, http://www.themarginalian.org. All images are also from her blog.