After Blue Origin sent its founder Jeff Bezos on the company’s first passenger flight, the aerospace manufacturer on Thursday launched artwork painted on a capsule and a moon-landing navigation experiment. The 10-minute flight did not have anyone aboard. The paintings by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo were on three parachute panels on the outside of the capsule at the very top, reports said.
Boafo painted a self-portrait as well as portraits of his mother and a friend’s mother, saying that “a mother’s love comes from a place that is out of this world,” according to Blue Origin launch commentator Kiah Erlich.
Uplift Aerospace Inc. commissioned Boafo’s work, “Suborbital Triptych”, as part of its new art-in-space program. “The purpose of the Uplift Art Program is to inspire new ideas and generate dialogue by making space accessible and connected to human experiences,” Uplift Aerospace’s CEO Josh Hanes said in a statement.
“Artists have a unique capacity to evoke fresh perspectives and interpret unfamiliar terrain. The profound strength of Amoako’s portraits for the first Suborbital Triptych will bring another dimension to the power that propels the New Shepard rocket,” Hanes said ahead of the launch.
On Thursday, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launched from the company’s private facility in West Texas. It reached a maximum altitude of 347,430 feet (or 105.6 kilometers) before returning to Earth safely. Boafo’s paintings were on triangular-shaped panels a few feet in size and detached from the capsule when the parachutes were deployed, according to the company, which added that the paintings would be recovered from the desert floor.
“To create a painting that will launch into space is unimaginable, and frankly surreal,” said Boafo before the launch. “I wish one day to experience what my characters will see.”
On Thursday, Bezos, in an Instagram post, congratulated the team at Blue Origin and Boafo. ”Congrats to the @blueorigin team on another successful launch — the eighth for this particular vehicle. And congrats to @amoakoboafo for creating the stunning art that flew into space this morning on New Shepard’s parachute covers. #GradatimFerociter,” the founder of Blue Origin and Amazon wrote.
Boafo, who combines brushwork with finger and hand painting, has had his portraits going from being almost unknown to selling for more than one million dollars at Christie’s in the period of only a few years, according to CollectSpace. Known for portraits that “challenge expectations of Blackness and celebrate subjectivity”, his work on the art market increased by more than 15 times its estimated price amid debates bordering the Black Lives Matter movement, DW reported.
His works were recently acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Albertina Museum Vienna and Rubell Museum. An ambassador for Dior as the first African to work with the fashion house, Boafo also appeared among emerging leaders in the TIME 100 Next 2021.
So how did the son of a fisherman and a cook from Ghana’s capital Accra become one of the world´s most sought-after artists?
Born in Accra in 1984, Boafo’s father, a fisherman, died when he was young so he was raised by his mother and grandmother. Growing up, Boafo became a talented tennis player and painter. He eventually chose painting and trained at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra. In 2014, he was given an opportunity to study at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, Austria.
In Vienna, he came across the works of 20th-century Viennese modernism, the European Art Nouveau, and these would inspire him to start painting sensual and masterful portraits, according to DW. Boafo likes to use his fingers to paint the faces of his figures directly onto the canvas.
“…I tried a few techniques, like with a brush, but I feel much more free when I’m painting with my fingers; I like the fact that I don’t have so much control,” he recently said in an interview with Fashion Weekly Daily.
He said he chooses his subjects based on how he feels and what those subjects are doing in society. “I am all about space — people who create space for others — and I choose characters who are doing something for the community.”
Boafo paints a lot in his head and doesn’t do a lot of work before he starts painting, he said. “Actually, my pictures are finished before I even start painting. I create them in my head. I know beforehand what they will become,” he told DW.
Certainly, people can’t get over the works of the 37-year-old Ghanaian artist, who has made it big within a short time. He now wants to help other young artists from his country by setting up an art school in Accra, where his interest in art came from.
“Art is not anything I could be around. I didn’t see it anywhere. I was more self-taught. Growing up, my friends and I would have art competitions. We would take a cartoon or something, and we would all draw the same thing and see who did it best. That was really how I started.”