Meet The Artist On A Mission To Get You To Totality

Arts & Celebrities

“Where the sun and moon align with you.” According to Dr. Tyler Nordgren, whose Space Art Travel Bureau is finding him fame as the world’s only eclipse artist, that’s what a total solar eclipse is all about.

The phrase coined by the Ithaca, New York-based astronomer-turned-artist features on the vintage-style travel posters he was commissioned to design for 43 destinations in the U.S. inside the path of totality on April 8.

Path Of Totality Posters

Nordgren’s work includes the Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls, and Rochester in New York to Southern Illinois University and Kerrville, Texas. In fact, the only U.S. states of the 13 in the path of totality for which he’s not produced a poster are Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, though even they feature on his posters for NASA and the American Astronomical Society—both of which can be freely downloaded, as can Nordgren’s poster for New York State.

As people firm up plans and prepare for the final total solar eclipse in the contiguous U.S. until 2044, Nordgren is seeing an uptick in sales, spurred by a series of talks and a special exhibition of 30 of his eclipse posters at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, which will run until April 21.

‘Half The Park Is After Dark’

This isn’t Nordgren’s first eclipse rodeo. He produced dozens of posters for the 2017 total solar eclipse—as well as a book, “Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets”—but has been making space-art posters for 17 years. If you’ve visited any U.S. National Park, you’ll likely already know Nordgren’s colorful, vintage-style “Half The Park Is After Dark” posters and postcards.

His signature style of blue and black night scenes and esoteric fonts adorn the walls of visitor’s centers in over 70 parks, including Bryce Canyon, Arches and Grand Canyon. He even designed the poster for President Obama’s final White House Astronomy Night.

‘See America’

“I’ve been doing this since about 2007,” said Nordgren in an interview. “I was writing Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks, and I wanted to have an illustration that would show people what it might look like to be in a national park under a starry sky—and encourage people to go and find one of those places.”

Nordgren’s illustrative style is inspired by a program in the 1930s called the Works Progress Administration that paid artists to create “See America” posters to go out and see the wonders of U.S. National Parks to help stimulate the economy. “I created an illustration for my book that says “See the Milky Way” and “Half The Park Is After Dark” to stimulate that idea of going out after dark to see the night sky,” he said.

The illustration proved incredibly popular, and the commissions to draw posters for more and more national parks began. But an eclipse in 2012 pushed Nordgren’s career in a new direction. “An annular solar eclipse went through the American Southwest, over many of the national parks I was already selling and designing posters for,” he said. Fast forward a decade and Nordgren now also leads tours to see total solar eclipses all over the world.

Astronomy And Art

Nordgren holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy from Cornell University, but his goal is to educate and inform—not to bamboozle people with science. “A total solar eclipse is one of those astronomical phenomena where you don’t need to know a single thing about it other than when and where it’s happening,” he said. “It requires nothing except for you to be there.” He is, however, an astronomer at heart.

In the past, he wrote papers on dark matter, galaxy formation and pulsating stars, but now he popularizes astronomy through books and art. “I started my career as an astronomer who did art on the side,” said Nordgren. “I’m probably now an artist who does astronomy on the side.”

For the very latest on the total solar eclipse check my main feed for new articles each day.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.


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