James Dean
James Dean (1931)
Artist James Dean at Grand Coulee, Washington
Artist James Dean at Grand Coulee, Washington

Although not the famous film star, James Dean has made a name for himself in the area of space art. Born in Fall River, Massachussetts in 1931, he studied at the Swain School of Design. He was the NASA director of films, publications and television and then the Director of the Fine Arts Program at NASA from 1961-1974. After directing the Fine Arts Program, he became the Curator of Art at the National Air and Space Museum. Not only did he direct the art program at NASA, but he also took part in it, depicting the space shuttle program. More recently, he has designed a Christmas stamp for the US Postal Service, and has exhibited his photography.

In the paintings and drawings that Dean completed for the Bureau of Reclamation, he used a fairly realistic style. His compositions are interesting for their viewpoint, often high or low. In the painting, The Dam and the Hole, the painting disappears down the hole, which the viewer sees from above and the side. The eye is drawn down the hole by the darker opaque areas. Starting in the upper left corner, with the elongated dark patch of ground, the viewer is pulled across to the dam, which is also dark. The dam acts as a funnel, directing the eye down, at which point the dark rock around the rim of the hole pulls the eye around the edge. Finally, the viewer is led into the hole itself by the workers on cables.

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