Karen Hanmer

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Title: Star Poems

Star Poems

Star Poems

Star Poems | 2008 | $800

Pigment inkjet prints

6.75x5.75x.75" closed, 17.5x 23" open

Edition of 30

At once vast and minimal, sparse and rich, the night sky has always been a canvas upon which people project their myths and dreams. Star Poems presents quotes that document response to the night sky across the ages by philosophers, artists, and poets from Plato and Byron to contemporary writers, scientists and astronauts. This text is paired with 17th century mythological images of constellation forms and images of early star gazers on a background of a NASA photograph of the Milky Way. The book can be held in the hand and read page by page like a traditional book, can be removed from its jacket and unfolded flat to reference historical astronomical charts or contemporary NASA composite photos, or can be folded into an infinite variety of sculptural shapes.


For our entire existence as a species, we have looked to the heavens. In the night sky we see possibilities, a map to our future, a document of our past. The panorama of deep space comprises a powerful metaphor, and in two books ... the metaphor is used to ample effect both conceptually and structurally. Celestial Navigation and Star Poems share the same structure and compositional background: a series of hinged triangle with start fields printed on deep blue. Each may be read as a traditional accordion fold, formed into myriad sculptural configurations, or unfolded flat as a kind of map referencing historical and contemporary astronomical charts.

Star Poems consists of astronomical quotes by historical and contemporary philosophers, scientists, artists, and poets paired with 17th century images of astronomers and constellations. The cover quote by Lord Byron, 'Ye stars / which are the poetry / of heaven,' is divided in three, with each part placed at the corners of the triangle, inviting the viewer to begin at any of the three corners. The effect is that one may travel in any direction through the vastness of heaven and encounter the profoundness of eternity, as if meaning were embedded in the environs of space itself, to be reflected and mediated through human synthesis.

— Max Yela, Head, Special Collections, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee