The Star Chart

I’ve been collecting celestial maps, lunar prints, and assorted other astronomical materials for years, and one of the first pieces I ever bought was this inky-blue Rand McNally Star Chart that I acquired while antiquing in Millerton, New York. I think it cost me 75 dollars at the time, as I remember hanging onto the its tag for the longest time. It is likely from the 1940′s and was a true academic instrument, but I also saw it as a modern object with its deep coloration and circular shape. There is something special to me about it being a chart of the Northern Skies, as it represents a true view of the night sky above the Upstate New York region where I grew up.

Until recently revisiting these pictures, I had forgotten that I used to have the Star Chart simply tacked on the wall. Here it is seen in the bedroom of my first apartment in the city, with my pets Emma and Daisy.

This chart has always been in my bedroom, as there is something dreamlike and almost magical about having the constellations and night sky near the bed. When I moved to my current apartment I originally kept the rooms very spare, and I kept the art leaning on the walls; almost nothing was hung. Along with restoring the original Emma Chairs, framing the Star Chart was one of the specific things I did for the move.

When I moved my bed into the large room in my apartment, the Star Chart held a temporary place over my Wooton desk, near the daybed in the room.

Ultimately the chart felt better near the bed, and as I continued to add art higher and higher up the walls of the large room I decided to put the Star Chart high above the bed. This is where it hangs now, anchoring the entire room.

I’m surprised by the amount of attention that the chart has gotten as I’ve moved it around the apartment. It always sparks discussion when the apartment is published, and everyone seems to love it. Some people have even said that they love the chart but that I should move out of the apartment, but of course I love the place and have no desire to do so.

The strong navy of the Star Chart became a thematic color for many graphic and printed materials at Aero, and also influenced my approach to the restoration of my Academy house in Long Island. Choosing to use black throughout the house, seen below on the railings and doors, felt to me like an extension of the chart’s deep navy blue. Around the time I decided on using black paint at the Academy, I came across a great original set of astronomical drawings on beautiful black paper. I had them framed and let them trail through the kitchen and up the stairs:

Here is a tryptch showing the phases of the moon and the cycle of the tides:

Another piece I love is this dark, tealy-blue print of Saturn:

An illustrated map of the constellations, showing the hemisphere where I grew up:

I have also collected books and other astronomical materials over the years, including a Victorian stereoscopic negative of the surface of the Moon. I had an internegative created to make a photographic print of this vintage lunar image. One framed print hangs in my hallway at the Academy, and from time to time we have one printed to sell at the Aero store.

One print used to be pinned up in my office at Aero Studios:

A framed print hangs in the living room of the Academy:

As much as I love the sky and celestial prints of the constellations, I also like globes of the Earth. I have a beautiful vintage globe from the 1940′s at the Academy that became the inspiration for my Academy Pivoting Desk Lamp for Visual Comfort & Co.:

The celestial theme extends to the Aero Store and Studios. Here you can see a large United States Air Force “Lunar Reference Mosaic” that hangs in the conference room:

I do try to find astronomical accessories when I shop for Aero merchandise, and various pieces including black & white globes, clear globes, and even a more playful planetary mobile float throughout the gallery.

This vintage set light, clear & silver globe, and black & white globe are no longer made and have taken on a “not-for-sale” status at the store:

Over the years, I have occasionally looked around but have never found another print of the Rand McNally Star Chart, but I’m always on the hunt for items like this. Apart from their modern, graphic aesthetic, I really do appreciate that they are teaching devices, some of which even came from schools. These objects keep a thread of history running through my Academy home and city apartment, and also remind me of when I was very young and first intrigued by the constellations and the night sky.

[photo credits, top to bottom: Laura Resen - #2-#5, #7, #8, #20, #21. Michelle Arcila - #24-#29, #31-#33. All others by Thomas O'Brien, Eugene Corless, or David Christian.]