Drue’s Art in the First In-Space Art Exhibit on Richard Garriott’s Space Mission

10.17.08 | Category: Asymmetry, Breaking News, Power Zen, Valley Future, Video, Zen Earth

On Sunday, video game developer Richard Garriott launched into space aboard a Soyuz TMA spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. For more than $30 million, he has become the sixth private citizen to travel into orbit.

The Russian rocket lifted off on schedule at 1:01 p.m. (3:01 a.m. EDT), carrying the first in-space art exhibition. Included is an original brush painting by Drue Kataoka, created for this historic mission.

Below is the written description of her painting that Garriott has taken with him to show the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

UP! by Artist Drue Kataoka

This painting was separated from itself: one piece of it travelled in Space with Richard Garriott’s mission, and one piece remained on Earth. Due to effects described in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, the Celestial piece is a fraction of a second younger than the Terrestrial piece— making the reunited artwork a conceptual portrait of the Garriotts—son and father, both astronauts during different eras.

UP! is a Rocket in the initial stages of take off, exhaust trailing from the powerful engines.
UP! is also a Sumi-e brush, leaving the trace of a brushstroke.
UP! is a brush taking off, and a rocket painting a brush stroke.
UP! is modern and eternal. This artistic message to the universe carries the transience of the gravity-defying thrust of the rocket into Space and the eternal human quest for beauty and knowledge.

Watch this exciting video that includes stills of UP!

Meet “Up!” The Concept

Like a Space mission, there is a terrestrial and a spatial (cosmic) element to “Up!” There is the part that will go into Space, and the part that will stay on Earth. Drue’s complete original painting is 22″x30″ inches. On board is the 14″x20” part of the original painting selected by Richard
Garriott that has gone (UP!) with him into Space. The rest has been left (as a “Mission Control”) on Earth. Thus the unity of the cosmic and terrestrial parts of the painting will symbolize the duality of the mission, the Space program, and humanity’s love affair with Space.

Father, Son and Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity

According to Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, objects traveling at very high speeds end up younger due to a distortion of timespace. In the case of this painting, the part of it that travelled at cosmic speeds on the Soyuz rocket ends up being a tiny fraction of a second younger than the part that stayed on Earth.
Richard Garriott’s father, Owen Garriott, used to be an astronaut on SpaceLab, and Drue's painting UP!

Richard always wanted to go into space himself one day. He did it as a private citizen on a Russian rocket. So, the younger part of the painting- the part that went into space– is meant to symbolize the younger Garriott, the son. The older part of the painting– the part that stayed on Earth as “mission control,” is meant to symbolize Owen Garriott who stayed on Earth during this mission.

The Image

In Sumi-e, an ancient Zen art form, meaning is carried through monochromatic, clean brush strokes—but even more in what lies between these brush strokes, the empty space, the area of the imagination. To see between the brush strokes, open your third eye—your creativity and intuition will guide you.

The image is a rocket in the initial stages of take off, all engines firing, fighting gravity to elevate the human spirit beyond the confines of Earth. It is also the brush of an invisible artist completing a simple but also incredibly nuanced brush stroke. But most of all, it is the intersection of the two—a rocket completing a brush stroke and a brush stroke overcoming gravity to leave Earth. Zero Gravity Art.

Collaboration between Art & Science

Drue invited Mr. Garriott to select the part of the painting that will join him in Space. Here was his choice:

Drue's painting UP! journey to Space

Richard Garriott’s Selection

“Actually a challenging artistic question…

While I enjoyed the “original” position the box was in. I have decided to attempt to make a “cut” that creates a smaller piece which displays the spirit of the whole in a way that makes it perhaps the independent spirited offspring of the larger piece, but still clearly on the same “journey.” Sort of as I am the offspring of my astronaut father. Here is my selection!”

According to Garriott’s specifications, Drue cut the piece selected for spaceflight out of her painting, and sent it to Space Adventures, Ltd. for Space training and then—for launch into Zero gravity. The “terrestrial” part stays as the Mission Control on earth, waiting for the return of the “spatial” piece. When the mission completes, the two parts will be reunited in a charitable auction conducted by Garriott and Zero Gravity Art Inc. The proceeds from the painting’s auction will benefit the Challenger Center, an international, not-for-profit education organization that was founded by the families of the astronauts lost during the last flight of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986.

40 Comments so far

  1. Sue Krentz

    Congratulations I will tell my mom..!! You are so cool!!
    Wishing you all the best
    Sue Krentz

  2. Tad Taube

    Remarkable feat by a remarkable lady!!!

  3. Karen Strohmaier

    Dear Drue,
    It is always a pleasure to see your work. Please keep in touch. We miss seeing you at your old elementary school, Encinal. We would love to have you make another visit.

    Best to you as always…and your family as well,
    Karen Strohmaier

  4. Mamontenok2

    Great metaphor for humanity’s space pursuit, and beautifully articulated!
    Millenia from now, this painting may reflect the quest of mankind for its place in the universe at the break of the 21st century in a similar way as the paintings in the cave of Lascaux reflect the quest for food of the Cro-Magnon. We’ve gone far as a species, haven’t we?

  5. Kim Stinson Serrano

    Ahhh, another forward-thinking idea. Many congratulations on this beautiful project. I will be waiting to hear more.
    Now, a new concept to work out…how can we put dance into space? Let’s do it!

  6. Drue Kataoka

    @ Sue — Thanks I am reminded of your comments on the open sky.

    @ Tad Taube – Thank you – I appreciate that you were among the earliest collectors of my Stanford art.

    @ Mrs. Strohmaier – All the time I meet Encinal students that I had presented to in one of your many different classes of years past. They participated in one or another of my projects. They always impress me with a detail that they remember. I believe art and science must be presented in an integrated way for young people at an early age. Please give Mrs. Hatfield and all the Encinal teachers and students my best.

    @ Mamontenok2 – I like your connection to Lascaux. The enso of time comes full circle.

    @ Kim – Thanks for your graceful and lyrical thoughts.

  7. Mark Evans

    Zen on earth and now zen in space, what a perfect combination of ideas.


    Dear Drue,
    Congratulation! It is a wonderful news. Your MESSAGE to the world is in its highest point now. I am happy for you.

    Kartoosh, Bita and Daria

  9. Deborah Cantor-Adams

    Dear Drue,
    Congratulations! What an awesome achievement, to have your artwork in space! It’s a beautiful work.

  10. Doug Osheroff

    Dear Drue:

    This is a remarkable coup! It is a beautiful painting that to me represents the path of mankind to the stars. What wonderful symbolism to have the painting itself participate in a part of this journey.

    Best wishes,


  11. Bart Charlow


    You have raised beauty to new heights!

    Hey, I like the painting, as I do all your work. Your minimal strokes on white space express the essence of the medium and the vision cleanly. You always “have brush” and “have ink”.

    But into space, well this is a kick.

    There are a host of ancient brush masters out there noting this event; I can feel them. Some frowning, some giggling, but all envious.

  12. Drue Kataoka

    @ Mark – Right on!

    @ Kartoosh – I like the idea of a high message, or tall message. Thank you!

    @ Deborah Cantor-Adams – A pleasure to receive greetings from MIT Press –thank you!

    @ Prof. Osheroff – I am deeply moved by your phrase “the path of mankind to the stars” I am reminded that you shared an invaluable tip with me — to shoot n+ 3 photos where n is the number of people. It made me wonder what one should shoot if one of the elements is a painting — that moves!
    Also I am always captivated by your stories about Richard Feynman (including his bongo playing). Perhaps you can share more of your thoughts about the intersection of art/music and science.

    @ Bart – Instead of Got Milk, we should switch to Got Ink? I like how you note in this moment — a connection to past Masters that have gone before us. If UP! goes high enough, it may just brush them.

  13. Steve Wong


    I grew up surrounded by Chinese brush paintings from my uncle (deceased some thirty-plus years ago) and from my mother’s collection (gifted to friends before she passed on). All subjects were of earthly scenarios. They taught me to appreciate the complex-simplicity, textural-transparency, still-dynamics and precise-fluidity which you too, have captured with your creative skill. Furthermore, you’ve added a new “off-the-planet” media dimension, an innovation of art-to-science, or science-to-art depending on the eye of the beholder.

    Many thanks for sharing your work. Universally!

    Congratulations and Brava!

    Steve Wong

  14. sandra

    Your paintings are truly eternal and beyond this world…love it!

  15. Vlasta Diamant

    Like the mission control on Earth, I long to see the “UP” down here in its position, framing the control part. Drue, beautiful, and I am sure revolutionary in Sumi-e’s tradition to combine a cut out with the painting. Congratulations! Now the sky isn’t the limit for art!

  16. Drue Kataoka

    @ Steve- Thank you for sharing this childhood reminiscence and insightful remarks about brush painting. You grew up like I did, steeped in brush strokes.

    @ Sandra – Glad you are a ValleyZen member — thank you!

    @ Vlasta – up, down, down, and up – zero gravity art turns everything around. Thanks for your response.

  17. Angus Blackwood

    Thirty spokes meet in the hub, but the empty space between them is the essence of the wheel.

    Pots are formed from clay, but the empty space between it is the essence of the pot.

    Walls with windows and doors form the house, but the empty space within it is the essence of the house.

    The black ink is the painting, but the empty space between the strokes completes the essence of Sumi-e. For “UP!” it is the space created by the piece in space that forms the essence of this masterpiece of art. America’s Master Sumi-e Artist Drue Kataoka has once again taken an ancient art form to new contemporary heights…and beyond!

  18. Nancy Collins

    Drue, this is a masterpiece! I really enjoyed your presentation, and am so glad we met years ago when you did a painting for the Stanford Barn. I look forward to following you in years to come!

  19. Ashley

    Drue, Your work is incredible. Can’t wait to see what’s next!!! Ash

  20. Dean Holman

    Dear Drue,

    Exciting news. Congratulations. It’s hard to suppress the impulse to say that I always thought your remarkable art was out of this world.


  21. Ron Gutman

    What an amazing adventure…and so poetic. Taking the human spirit in the form of very personal art to the eternity of space.
    Drue, your creativity is inspiring.

  22. Jeremy Bailenson

    WOW!! Piece is beautiful and works perfectly for the medium of space. Keep up the great work! Jeremy

  23. Linda Millard

    I want you to come on my next safari. I can only imagine what an interesting take you would have on endangered wildlife.
    Asante sana for being you.

  24. Kris



    You are pioneering art and beauty in space with zen like simplicity.


  25. Drue Kataoka

    @ Angus – Hey great reflections on negative space in the spirit of UP! Sorry wordpress scrambled your cyrillic. I need to fix that. Your wishes in English are appreciated nonetheless!

    @ Nancy – The Red Barn is interesting to discuss in this context. Over one hundred years ago, Stanford and Muybridge, in trying to learn the secrets of the hoofbeat conducted their ground-breaking experiment and created the first motion picture. Technological developments can happen anywhere — even or especially on “a Farm.”

    @ Ashley – appreciate your thoughts!

    @ Dean – as long as what was out of this world returns in, and the two parts of UP! and re-united. Thanks!

    @ Prof. Bailenson — Appreciate your thoughts and wonder how you would think of UP! in a virtual reality context. You are the master of VR!!

    @ Linda – Thanks for the invitation to Safari. Harmony with nature is one of the philosophical fundamentals of Sumi-e. The spirit of oneness with living things is at its core. All my brushes are made from special animal hairs and all materials are organic. I am deeply sensitive to the plight of endangered animals. Seeing the earth from space changes our perspective and our attitudes towards our fragile ecosystems.

    @ Kris – the pioneering spirit alive in Silicon Valley is something I love!

  26. Jennifer Fan


    Simply put, your latest piece is stunning! Congratulations on yet another remarkable accomplishment.


  27. Shin


    It’s really exciting news.

    Next, you aboard a spacecraft and paint sumi-e art in space.


  28. Gayle Chan

    Wow! Congratulations! Mission Accomplish!

  29. Nancie Fimbel


    It’s not only that your painting is remarkable–EVERY painting you do is imaginatively clever and filled with enormous movement and energy–but it’s how and where you use your talents that is also astonishing! It’s more fun for me to watch your success than you could guess!

    Nancie Fimbel

  30. Barbara Meyers

    Drue-As always I am amazed and awed by your work. Each surpasses the previous-how much higher can you possibly go-if you have already flown to the moon!

  31. Fay F.Jones

    Congraduations Drue – As far as I know your the first Rotarian having her work placed into space.

  32. Jim

    Very, very cool. Hopefully will become an invaluable gift for some aliens :) . Congratulations.

  33. Asha Mehta

    Wow… Drue, you do exactly what an artist should — make us look at the world we live in from new dimensions. I am ever-impressed by your creativity. Thank you, and congratulations!!

  34. Drue Kataoka

    @ Jennifer – Thank you!

    @ Shin san – Painting in Sumi-e zero gravity would be great.

    @ Gayle -With the crew and painting safely back on earth — yes!

    @ Nancie – So kind of you to stop by virtually on ValleyZen.

    @ Barbara -All of the positive thoughts are great fuel.

    @ Fay – honored to have such a distinguished Rotarian comment, thank you

    @ Jim – This is too funny. Yes reaching out into the universe should not happen without art! Cosmic cultural diplomacy. Aliens might not speak our language but they could understand our brush strokes.

    @ Asha — I like your bold statement about art and artists. Thank you.

  35. Joyce Davis

    Drue, you are absolutely amazing! I know you will continue to embark into new areas and ideas. I can’t wait to see what is next for you. Only a true artist could come up with this.

  36. Patricia Nojima

    Excellent! Now that you have conquered space, what could be next? I’m sure you’ll think of something to top even this! Onward and upward!

  37. Aliya


    This is so cool! Congraulations on being the first artist in space! I love the art work and the concept of artistic endeavor meeting science, which has been expressed so beautifully in the painting itself.

  38. Lisa Suruki

    Drue-san omedetou gozaimasu!

    I must share with you the various thoughts I had when I viewed UP! at various times of the day and when I was in a different mood.

    I could see mission control and then the artist’s brush as described when I first saw it. But after that, it seemed to symbolize to me: a revolutionary thought breaking free from the status quo; a metaphor for one to shoot for your goal; from darkness to light; humankind’s hope for a bigger and brighter future. When I close my eyes now and picture it in my mind’s eye, I can “hear” audio where the bottom half (mission control) is loud, noisy and chaotic but as you move upward to the tip (of the brush) it gets quieter till at the blank space in the upper right hand corner is golden silence and calm.

    Honto ni subarashii sumi-e desu yo. Arigato :-)

    Lisa Suruki

  39. Drue Kataoka

    @ Joyce -Glad you have been tuning into ValleyZen to follow the developments. Thank you!

    @ Patricia – Coming from another artist, I appreciate your thoughts.

    @ Aliya – Fellow super blogger! I’m glad you like this exploration of art meeting science.

    @ Lisa – Thank you for your exquisite response. I liked that you viewed my Sumi-e painting with your eyes closed. I do the same thing before painting, and after painting too. UP! is a work created between open eyes and closed eyes, between darkness and lightness between chaos and calm.

    THANK YOU ALL for your incredible creativity in this comment thread.

  40. Carmine Salvucci

    Drue -
    What a wonderful story! Always an inspitration. I love “Up!”

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