College of Visual and Performing Arts

MoonArk Exhibition in Paris Highlights Artwork of JMU Professor

MoonArk Paris Exhibition

By Jen Kulju ('04M)

Mark Rooker, JMU metals and jewelry area coordinator and professor, is riding high after a trip to Paris where his work on the MoonArk project was showcased at the world-renowned Center Pompidou in the Hors Pistes Festival from January 18-Feburary 3, 2019. Rooker (pictured third from the left above) is the project’s lead sculptor, which includes over 50 international artists, designers, scientists and engineers who were chosen to create a tiny museum of humanity for discovery on the moon. The project will hitch a ride to the moon in 2021 on a lander being sent by Astrobotic, Inc. in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.

“The opportunity to exhibit the MoonArk in the Hors Pistes Festival was a career highlight, bringing international attention to my creative work and to James Madison University,” says Rooker.

MoonArk 655

Since joining the team in July 2013, Rooker has focused his efforts on building sculptural components for the four chambers of the MoonArk, which contain elements representing all arts and humanities—art, architecture, design, music, drama, ballet and poetry—in no more than six ounces of payload (half a can of Coca Cola). Rooker’s sculptures form the focal point for the center of each chamber. His small-scale work with gold and titanium has been possible because of the laser welders in JMU’s state-of-the-art Metals and Jewelry lab.

Rooker’s role expanded throughout the project to include the building of micro payload chambers, which feature “a poetic sending of earthbound things” including rock samples, a moon perfume created by a well-known perfumer, and blood, to name a few. 

Rooker also used the laser welders to create “rims and hubs” for sapphire disks (which contain imagery, data and poems) that attach to his sculptures and to micro payload chambers. To help him accomplish the task, Rooker enlisted the help of master machinist Mark Starnes in JMU’s College of Integrated Science and Engineering and his student apprentices.

Rooker created two copies of each chamber—one for the moon launch and another for earthside exhibition. The project makes its way to Budapest in June 2019.

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Published: Thursday, February 28, 2019

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021

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