Earlier this year, a prominent lifestyle magazine ran a profile of figurative painter Amoako Boafo, hailing his "stratospheric rise" among the "upper echelons of the art world."
Little did they know at the time, the stratosphere would only be the start for where the 37-year-old Ghanaian's art was headed.
As announced on Thursday (July 29), Boafo will create Uplift Aerospace's first "Suborbital Triptych," a three-panel painting that will fly into space on the outside of Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. Through the physical stresses of its launch and re-entry, Boafo's artwork will be changed — both literally and figuratively — creating a unique record of the flight.
"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," Josh Hanes, chief executive of Uplift Aerospace, said in a statement.
Boafo's art combines brushwork with finger and hand painting to capture the mood of his subjects — creatives, friends and other members of his social circle who inspire him. His portraits, which have been celebrated for his approach to shaping the Black form, have gone from being almost unheard of, to selling for more than $1 million at Christie's in the period of only a few years.
Boafo's works were recently acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Albertina Museum Vienna and Rubell Museum. Featured among emerging leaders in the TIME 100 Next 2021, Boafo is also an ambassador for Dior as the first African to work with the fashion house.
"To create a painting that will launch into space is unimaginable, and frankly surreal," said Boafo, reflecting on his selection for the Uplift Art Program. "I wish one day to experience what my characters will see."
"It is an honor to be invited to a project of this latitude," he said.
Slated to liftoff on an uncrewed New Shepard flight scheduled for this fall, Boafo's Suborbital Triptych will be applied directly to three carbon-fiber panels that will cover the parachutes used to return Blue Origin's space capsule to the ground. The same type of panels were in use earlier this month for the flight that sent Blue Origin's founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, "Mercury 13" pilot Wally Funk and Blue Origin's first paying passenger, Oliver Daemen, on the company's first human launch.
Uplift Aerospace, which announced its partnership with Blue Origin in September 2020, is planning to use Boafo's Suborbital Triptych to raise awareness and funds for charities that it and the artist supports. In conjunction with Boafo's artwork, Uplift will make a charitable contribution to nonprofit organizations with a focus on supporting conservation and healthcare for all.
Prior to the launch, Uplift will also announce Boafo's chosen beneficiaries, which will share in the spotlight and accept Uplift's donation at a ceremony planned for after the Suborbital Triptych returns to Earth.
Boafo's Suborbital Triptych is being funded by Uplift Aerospace. It will be curated by the Uplift Art Program for public display and exhibition.
"Artists have a unique capacity to evoke fresh perspectives and interpret unfamiliar terrain," said Hanes. "The purpose of the Uplift Art Program is to inspire new ideas and generate dialogue by making space accessible and connected to human experiences."
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.