From Jersey City to the depths of space: an interview with local artist Sam Pullin

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If you’ve visited Liberty Science Center via Light Rail lately, you may have noticed two stunning murals that were painted under the nearby bridge:

<i><center>The Voyager 1 Space Probe</i></center>
The Voyager 1 Space Probe

<i><center>The golden record aboard the Voyager</i></center>
The golden record aboard the Voyager

The murals – painted by Jersey City artist Sam Pullin, as part of the Jersey City Mural Arts program – depict two different images, yet are connected to the same narrative. One painting shows the Voyager 1 Space Probe, a NASA spacecraft that has traveled farther than anyone or anything in history, while the other painting shows the golden record traveling aboard the Voyager. The actual record contains music from artists such as Chuck Berry and Wolfgang Mozart, as well as greetings and warm wishes from many different world languages – hence the “HELLO” written above Pullin’s painting.

We chatted with Pullin to learn more about his paintings, what he hopes LSC visitors will take away from his work, and why he believes the paintings belong in Jersey City.

<i><center>Sam Pullin</i></center>
Sam Pullin

A lot of people will pass these paintings every day when walking back and forth from the Light Rail. What kind of emotions or messages did you hope to send out to passersby?

I know that the Voyager is not immediately recognizable to most people, and the golden record is probably even less so. I wanted to make people curious about what the two objects are, and why someone might find them significant enough to depict them in a work of art.

What is it that fascinates you about the Voyager?

The story of the Voyager has intrigued me for several years. The ingenuity required to plot the course of the probe – which is designed to travel directly out into interstellar space after navigating the gravitational forces of the planets within our solar system – is captivating in and of itself. Even more amazing is the quantity of valuable data that it has gathered in the five decades that it has been traveling away from our lonely planet.

And what interests you about the golden record?

The audio recordings contain greetings and warm wishes from many different world languages, and music from a multitude of cultures. The basic idea of the recording is that – as the Voyager 1 travels further away from us, even after we lose contact with it in 2020 – it will continue to venture out into the unexplored expanses of the universe, and if it is ever discovered by some distant life form, it will offer an explanation of human life.

I hope that some viewers of the mural will consider the content of the record itself, which is one of the reasons I thought the mural really belonged in Jersey City. The diversity of the languages of the greetings, combined with the world music present on the record, reminded me of my own experience growing up in Jersey City and the diversity of the people that I have the privilege to know.

Do you have your own personal relationship with Liberty Science Center?

I went to LSC a bunch when I was a kid and really loved it. As a teen running wild in New York City, when people asked me where I was from, I’d say “Jersey City.” Most didn’t know where that was, but when I said “It’s where Liberty Science Center is,” they would know immediately. It’s great to have the opportunity to contribute artwork to such an iconic place.

Do you have any other works around Jersey City that people can check out or may already be familiar with?

I did a really large mural of an astronaut descending onto Earth near Hatshepsut’s Temple in the Valley of the Kings. It’s located on Franklin and Central up in the Heights, which is where I grew up. I have also been participating in art shows in and around Jersey City for a couple of years now.

What’s next for you?

Plenty, I hope! I am always painting away at home, and have an exhibition in Maine and another show in New York City coming up at the end of the summer. I am also working on a children’s book with my partner Allison Remy Hall. It’s the atmospheric story of an introspective pig who loves to take care of plants. You can check that out at @piggyandplants on Instagram or find out more at nosucharts.com.

Sam Pullin can be reached at his website and on Instagram at @bedbugs_in_love.


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