Space Suit of the Week

Scott Listfield “paints astronauts and, sometimes, dinosaurs.” His paintings remind me of previously featured Hunter Freeman, who photographs astronauts suited for spacewalks casually walking around pedestrian landscapes: the laundromat, the coffee shop, the candy aisle, etc. Scott also pulls astronauts down to earth, but places them in settings where the contrast between the environment and the suit to highlight the strange environment in which we live. Scott says: “the present is in fact a very unusual place, and it’s strangest in the ubiquity of things we take for granted.”

Many of his paintings place an astronaut in branded environments. I chose the Dunkin’ Donuts image out of many other branded paintings because I like the hot pink and because I like how flat the painting appears compared to the spaces painted in images below it. Branding is a strange phenomenon and it is noticeably absent in many space-age movies that imagine a future where we float around in complicated boxes stripped of everything but engineering:

“I do not know if people genuinely believed we’d be living in space in 2001. If we’d have robot butlers and flying cars, geodesic lunar homes with sustainable gardens, and genetically reconstituted dinosaurs helping or eating the human population. But from Lost in Space to the Jetsons to Jurassic Park, it seems that popular culture craved and fomented this space-age perception of the future. Generations raised on these programs, movies, comic books, and novels are now grown and living in a future filled with mini vans, Starbucks, iMacs, and Hip Hop videos. In many ways, the year 2001, like 1984 before it, failed to live up to expectations. In hindsight, these expectations appear almost comical.”

And many of the expectations were comical. The future in plenty of movies imagined inevitable alien invasions and even scientists imagined absurd-looking propoals for space suits taking us into the future. Scott’s paintings are not almost comical, but absolutely comical in a way that seems inevitable. By turning our everyday settings in to set-ups for his intragalactic gags, Scott invites us to explore not the future from the past, but a surprising present.


March 11, 2011