Clarksville, TN – On the afternoon of August 21st, 2017, the skies over Clarksville will go dark for approximately two minutes as a total solar eclipse blacks out the sun.
A once-in-a-lifetime event, the eclipse figures to draw hundreds of amateur and professional stargazers to town for the brief opportunity to witness history.But while the eclipse itself may be fleeting, one wall in the Sundquist Science Building on the campus of Austin Peay State University is host to a work of art that serves as a reminder of how fortunate the University is to be located directly in the path of the natural phenomenon.
Earlier this year, Austin Peay art and physics double major Mary Sencabaugh was asked to create a mural commemorating the eclipse. A student of both the explained (physics) and the unexplained (art), Sencabaugh was the perfect choice to create a tribute for the event.
“Ultimately, both physics and art are about trying to explain or understand the things around you,” Sencabaugh said. “I’m always trying to base my art projects around physics because it’s something I’m always thinking or learning about anyway, so (the mural) was a great project for me.”
Created using oil paints, the mural is not meant to replicate what on-lookers can expect to see on August 21st, 2017, but rather to invoke a sense of awe in the beauty of space. The mural’s use of color and shape is abstract, but Sencabaugh said her goal was to encompass many of the unique sights that can be spotted through a telescope.
“I wanted to try to get a number of different important features of space in the mural itself,” Sencabaugh said. “For instance, there’s the Einstein’s Cross in one corner, which is a real example of light bending around a heavy object so that it makes it look like two identical objects to our eyes.”
The entire structure of the mural itself, Sencabaugh said, is a subtle tribute to one of her artistic inspirations – late television host and painter, Bob Ross.
“I’m a big Bob Ross fan, and one of his favorite things to do was to paint ‘fluffy little clouds’ in his works,” Sencabaugh said. “Ultimately, space itself is like a series of fluffy clouds, so that’s the way I went about creating the nebula in the mural.
“(The mural) was fun because it’s a chance to combine physics and astronomy, which have the burden of accuracy, with art, which has no burden of accuracy and gives you the freedom to do what you want.”
For more information on the Austin Peay’s schedule of events for the 2017 Total American Eclipse, visitwww.apsu.edu/eclipse
To find out more about Sencabaugh’s work, visit www.marysencabaugh.com