Scott Listfield: Astronauts in Pop Culture
"The astronaut in my paintings is simply here to explore the present."
- Scott Listfield
Have you ever seen a fully-suited astronaut in Hollywood? At McDonalds? At an art gallery? Probably not. And why would you? Astronauts only explore space, right?
One space artist, Scott Listfield
, has sought to bring the image of the astronaut back to Planet Earth. He has become known for his paintings that feature “a lone exploratory astronaut lost in a landscape cluttered with pop culture icons, corporate logos, and tongue-in-cheek science fiction references” (see full bio here
). And all the while his astronaut remains here on Earth
, featured in everyday environments including metropolitan landscapes, national landmarks, and billboarded highways.
Scott Listfield studied painting at Dartmouth, located in a small, remote town in New Hampshire; after college he spent time abroad, traveling to new places and immersing himself in foreign cultures. Upon returning to Boston, and being thrust into the working world, bombarded with advertisements, brand names and the constant stream of media, Listfield felt just as alien in his ‘own’ culture than he had when he was abroad. These feelings of alienation, isolation and estrangement fueled his artistic motivations for his protagonist -- the astronaut -- and the environment in which he would be depicted.
That being said, the astronaut in his paintings is not an attempt to depict any astronaut
from living history (Neil Armstrong
, John Glenn
, Bruce McCandless
) but is rather an icon that explores the idea of alienation and an overwhelming feeling of disconnection between oneself and the world in which one lives. The astronaut represents an individual thrust into an unfamiliar world, attempting to understand new surroundings while immersed in 21st century iconography. This individual is surrounded by so much, yet feels so distant to it all.
While Listfield pays particular attention to the environment in which his protagonist exists he does not take for granted the power of the astronaut himself. On the contrary, Listfield relies on pop culture’s knowledge of astronauts to bring his paintings to life. (Hint: what do you think of when you think ‘astronaut’? Space Race
, the moon
, exploration, national pride, progress, strength, discovering the unknown?). The image of the astronaut often conjures up feelings of history, of nostalgia for that great age of space exploration, and Listfield is taking this astronaut, this icon of the past, and transplanting him into pop culture environments, juxtaposing the past with the present.
At the end of the day, Lisfield wants his viewers to look beyond the paint, to take the images of astronauts and pop culture references and use it all as a source of creative inspiration for exploring new spaces, however alienating or unfamiliar they may initially seem. Afterall, ‘space exploration’ does not solely refer to that which occurs in the outer reaches of our solar system, but also the exploration of a time and place that is happening now -- the present.
Listfield currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and features his works in galleries across the country. See here for more information about his paintings: http://astronautdinosaur.com/index.html