THOM BENNETT PHOTOGRAPH
The proliferation of satellite imagery may be changing our daily perception of the world, from the way we understand news events to the way we get driving directions across town. A recent body of work from New Orleans artist Aron Belka, however, offers a different interpretation of this very imagery.
Belka’s portfolio of “satellite paintings” are inspired by aerial and satellite views of the earth. The vantage can range from treetop-level to high orbit, but they’re always translated in oil on canvas through his own perspective and imagination. Think of the approach as the big picture, re-imagined.
“When you see a landscape up close, there’s all the visual noise in the way, but when you get farther
out, you get to see the design that’s happening in the land, and that’s where I start,” he says.
A Mexican mountain range turns blue and green on his canvas, while in another painting a South African river twists like a tendril around the silver glimmer of a developed area before cutting across a great open expanse. For another painting, a dark circular feature turns out to be a New Zealand volcano ringed by a spreading deforestation.
Belka was raised in Salt Lake City in a family with a strong artistic tradition. His mother is a musician, and his father is an architect, which Belka credits for his own early interest in geometric design.
“I spend a lot of time perusing Google Earth, looking for compositions that appeal to me,” he says. “At first it was very design-oriented, but now I’m more interested in what’s going on at these locations, the environmental conditions, the social conditions.”
One of his paintings is a representation of Mount Kilimanjaro. He’s produced prints of the work in partnership with the Kilimanjaro Education Foundation, and half of the proceeds from this print’s sales support the nonprofit’s mission to improve schooling in Tanzania and other countries bordering the famous African summit.
“Sometimes people don’t realize this work is based on satellite imagery at first, but when they do, the meaning of the painting can really change for them,” Belka says. “There’s so much material. It’s the whole world, really, and there are places out there that are meaningful for different people in different ways.”
See more of Belka’s work and details about the Kilimanjaro Education Foundation project at www.aronbelka.com.