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Night visions: Stamford museum exhibition celebrates celestial scenes

Published 1:12 pm, Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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  • Greg Mort's "Sun Moon & Stars" is among the images one will find at "Nightwatch: The Art of Greg Mort," which opens at the Stamford (Conn.) Museum and Nature Center, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. Mort, a Maryland artists whose works are featured in many private and public collections, will be half of the celestial theme on display. A number of prints by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, a 19th century artist, amateur entomologist and amateur astronomer, also will be on display. For more information, visit http://www.stamfordmuseum.org. Photo: Contributed Photo
    Greg Mort's "Sun Moon & Stars" is among the images one will find at "Nightwatch: The Art of Greg Mort," which opens at the Stamford (Conn.) Museum and Nature Center, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. Mort, a Maryland artists whose works are featured in many private and public collections, will be half of the celestial theme on display. A number of prints by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, a 19th century artist, amateur entomologist and amateur astronomer, also will be on display. For more information, visit http://www.stamfordmuseum.org. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Stamford Museum and Nature Center Bendel Mansion Museum Galleries, 39 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford. Saturday, Feb. 16-Monday, May 27. Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults $10, seniors (65 and older) $8, students (18 and older with valid ID) $6, children (4-17) $5, Children (3 and under) and members free. Astronomy Night, Friday, April 5 (recommended for 5 and older): Adults $3; children (5-17), $2; members free. 203-322-1646, http://www.stamfordmuseum.org.
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By the time artist and amateur astronomer Greg Mort began turning his eyes to the skies, about 80 years had passed since Etienne Leopold Trouvelot also had found a way to combine the two disciplines for spectacular results.

"I have always admired his work," said Mort during a recent telephone interview.

Trouvelot, a French-born artist, amateur entomologist and amateur astronomer who lived from 1827 to 1895, is known for his thousands of meticulously rendered sketches, pastel drawings and prints of his celestial observations, largely drawn from his work at the Harvard College Observatory.

A number of those prints, including "The Planet Jupiter" and "The Great Comet of 1881," will be on display at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center along with a new exhibition, "Nightwatch: The Art of Greg Mort," both of which begin Saturday, Feb. 16.

Mort, a Maryland artist who has long been inspired by the outdoors and the night skies, will show nearly 30 original pieces.

"It's a neat cross-section of what I've done," said Mort, whose work can be found at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Mort traces his celestial fascination back to when he was just a child.

"I have a long fascination with the stars," he said. "It is integrated into who I am.

"I remember going out with my father to see Sputnik go over in 1957," he said of the unmanned Russian satellite that made history when it was launched into orbit on Oct. 4, 1957.

From there, it wasn't long before he was making telescopes and peering through those made by others to track what was happening tens of thousands of miles above his head.

"To look ... and see the moon or rings around Saturn ... it just blew my mind that you could do that from your backyard," he added.

For Mort's work, it is the interplay of everyday objects with the beauty of celestial scenes that gives the images their impact. It is his hope that viewers gain a sense of connection with the universe, even as they remain awed by the natural beauty around them.

Largely inspired by the landscape of Maine, where he often visits, he said his final pieces often start with sketches, but "accrued images of a lifetime" also inform his final renderings.

"A lot of my work is about the nighttime," he said, adding that it is easier to be awed by night skies in places far away from populated areas, where artificial light can mask the true brilliance of the Milky Way.

"When people see the show, I hope they gain a new appreciation for the beauty of darkness," he said.

Several programs are planned with the exhibitions, which end Monday, May 27, including a visit and presentation by Mort during Astronomy Night on Friday, April 5. The evening begins at 7:30 p.m., and if the weather cooperates, visitors can end the evening with a look through Stamford Observatory's 22-inch research telescope.

Just as he was inspired to explore and create, Mort hopes he spurs kids to get interested in astronomy, and, more broadly, in the world around them.

This is the first time he has worked with the museum, but he said he already feels a bit at home. It must be the institution's longstanding tradition of offering children and their families opportunities to learn about, "the natural world, the agricultural sciences, astronomy, art and history," according to its website.

"I already know it's my kind of place," he said.

christina.hennessy@scni.com; 203-964-2241; http://twitter.com/xtinahennessy

Stamford Museum and Nature Center Bendel Mansion Museum Galleries, 39 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford. Saturday, Feb. 16-Monday, May 27. $10-$5. 203-322-1646, http://www.stamfordmuseum.org.