The Stellae Errantes Series:
About Stellae Errantes: Astronomy Meets Myth
Stellae Errantes started out as a series of elephant paintings inspired by astronomy and myth. Specifically, it was our local astronomy—our solar system—and the mythology attached to the names of the largest bodies in our solar system that that served as both a starting point and a healthy set of limits.
The idea of planets as wandering stars (stellae errantes) helped to equate elephants, with their massive size and nomadic tendencies, to planets and deities alike. Much like Soward's Rhinotopia™ series, where she equated the rhino to the sacred, in this series she equates the elephant to both the sacred and the scientific. For some paintings, the scientific inspiration is more obvious and in others it is less direct.
As the series continues to progress, other types of celestial objects, ideas, animals, and branches of mythology will be explored. The current work in progress is a roughly 5x8 foot painting of the Laniakea galaxy supercluster using 17 species of birds endemic to the Hawaiian islands. "Laniakea" is Hawaiian and is translated to "immeasurable heaven".
Stellae Errantes: Elephants and Planets
Stellae Errantes translates roughly to “Wandering Stars”. The term, wandering stars, was used by ancient Greeks to describe the planets of our solar system because the planets in the night sky looked just like stars to the naked eye but behaved differently. They moved.
The idea of planets as wandering stars (stellae errantes) helped Soward to personify the planets using the stories of the deities those planets are named after and images of the most massive land animals, who happen to have nomadic tendencies.
In this part of series, Soward equates the elephant to both the sacred and the scientific. For some paintings, the scientific inspiration is more obvious and in others it is less direct. When a celestial object has more than one possible name (English: Sun, Hawaiian: Laa, Latin: Sol), the artist defers first to the naming as set forth by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and secondarily to the Latin. Soward used this rationale as the decision to name the series in Latin.
One of Soward’s main goals as an artist is to raise awareness about conservation of endangered and threatened animals. There are two species of elephant. The Asian elephant is endangered. The African elephant is vulnerable but not yet on the endangered list. Current estimates state that in the last 10 years, central Africa has lost 64% of its elephant population (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140818-elephants-africa-poaching-cites-census/).
A portion of the artist’s proceeds from this exhibition is being donated to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. To donate to them directly, please visit their website: http://www.elephanttrust.org.