lia holloran

Into the Blue – Lia Halloran’s art explores universal themes, attracting viewers, students and astrophysicists eager to make the interstellar journey Lia Halloran’s art explores universal themes, attracting viewers, students and astrophysicists eager to make the interstellar journey


Tour Lia Halloran’s Deep Sky exhibit with the artist and her colleagues. Go inside her studio and learn more about her collaboration  with astrophysicist Kip Thorne. Visit

Want more? Watch Halloran create “Your Body Is a Space that Sees: The Magellanic Cloud.”

Inspired by the cosmos,
Lia Halloran
’s art works are deep and engaging – for some viewers, profoundly affecting. No wonder, then, that just describing her process can take Halloran on an expansive journey.

“Making something easy,” she says, “never seems to be where my art lands.”


Working with Chapman University students and alumni such as Jenny Seo ’14, above, art professor Lia Halloran creates works that bridge art and astrophysics. Her work M87, seen below, is among the galaxies and nebulae exhibited predominantly as telescopic disks in Deep Sky Companion at Caltech’s Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pasadena. (Photo by Adam Ottke ’13)

For her latest works, she combines painting techniques with table-sized photographic plates that yield six-foot cyanotype prints, some of which seem to possess their own gravitational pull. In a converted garage, creation starts under bright lights, then moves into partial darkness and culminates in the brilliant illumination of “our nearest star, outside the studio in sunny Los Angeles,” as Halloran describes in a video documenting her creative process.

“I didn’t want to just paint the galaxies,” she says. “I wanted there to be some translation and evolution.”

Creating art that illuminates science has long been at the heart of Halloran’s studio work, as well as her teaching as an assistant professor of art at Chapman University.

“I want the viewer to have that experience of curiosity when they’re looking at my work. I want it to be like a visual punch in the stomach. To do that I think it has to be experimental,” she says.

The process is also collaborative, involving Chapman students and graduates, including Jenny Seo ’14, Halloran’s studio assistant. Seo and others “help me think in different and exciting ways about my studio practice,” the artist says.

These days, Halloran’s art is landing in some exciting places. She’s working on a book with legendary theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne – the man behind
. And it’s through their artistic exploration of “the warped side of the universe” that 110 of her works are on display in the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Caltech, where Thorne is an emeritus professor.

Deep Sky Companion
features paintings and photographs of night-sky objects from the catalog of 18th-century French astronomer Charles Messier. Halloran’s works climb the walls as they integrate with the building’s unique architecture, which evokes a telescopic view into the heavens. From galaxies to nebulae, the works draw visitors into an otherworldly experience.

“To me, personally, Lia’s painting of
(The Crab Nebula) is the centerpiece of her exhibit,” Thorne says in the catalog notes. “I encourage you to gaze on its beauty.”

Indeed, it’s a heavenly sight

Dennis Arp

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