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Tom Van Sant: An Earth Twin at the Digital Dawn
August 10, 2024-February 1, 2025

In 1988, when computer simulations were rudimentary experiments and before the World Wide Web existed, Tom Van Sant (1931-2023) began the GeoSphere Project. Prefiguring today's “digital twin” technology by two decades, the artist aimed to build an accurate, interactive, awe-inspiring replica of the Earth that would make its complex systems visible and bring humankind together to know, love, and care for our planet.

Working at technology's outermost reaches, Van Sant and his scientist-collaborator Dr. L. Van Warren began by compositing thousands of satellite photographs to make the GeoSphere Image: the first map of Earth as it looks from space, but without the clouds. Other components quickly followed, including the GeoSphere Globe and the Earth Situation Room: a tool for managing Earth’s resources and the impacts of climate change. 

A groundbreaking work of art, science, and technology, the GeoSphere Project represents the acme of Van Sant’s dedication to the natural world, materials innovation, and public service. It provided the first border-free global map for scientists, activists, and decision-makers to visualize the unity of Earth's ecosystems; and it laid the foundation for Google Earth, an application that has transformed users’ spatial experience of the planet.

Curated by Janet Owen Driggs, An Earth Twin at the Digital Dawn is produced by 18th Street Arts Center, Otis College of Art and Design, and Cypress College. Part of Santa Monica’s DNA Festival, it is presented in conjunction with PST ART: Art & Science Collide.

Visit the companion website featuring artworks, timeline and texts complied by curator Janet Owen Driggs.

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A sculptor, draftsman, civic art planner, and conceptual artist, Tom Van Sant was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived and worked in a studio in Santa Monica for 30 years. He completed over 77 international and national commissions for public and corporate spaces and is recognized as the father of Space Art and modern kite-making. The companion website to this exhibition provides a survey of the artist’s complete works.

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On View August 10, 2024 - February 1, 2025
18th Street Arts Center
1639 18th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Support for this exhibition comes from the Institute of Museum + Library Sciences, National Endowment for the Arts, Santa Monica Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Arts and Cultural Department, Perenchio Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Otis College of Arts and Design and 18th Street Arts Center’s Board and Individual Donors.

18th Street Arts Center recognizes and acknowledges the first people of the ancestral territory on which its two sites have been built. With respect to their elders, past and present, and future generations, we recognize the Gabrieleño Tongva – who are still here – and honor, with gratitude, the land itself and those who have stewarded it throughout the generations. We honor and respect the many indigenous peoples still connected to this land on which we gather, and we commit our work in service to and in alignment with these values. Please consider supporting the Gabrieleño Tongva at https://tongva.land/donate/

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