Jon Lomberg

In this area at the back of the room you will find an area dedicated to the artist’s personal items.
The works “NO!” and “SUNRISE” which are reproduced on this panel played a role in the first contact between Jon Lomberg and Carl Sagan. In 1972, Lomberg sent him these works together with a long letter of admiration for Sagan’s work on astronomy and SETI, subjects Lomberg was fascinated by. To remind you, SETI is the search for Extraterrestrial intelligence.

Sagan replied in turn, expressing his interest in the artist’s work and inviting him to meet a few days later at Toronto Airport, where Sagan would be catching a connecting flight back to New York after a trip to Canada to observe an eclipse. But…in his letter, Sagan forgot to mention the flight number or which city it was coming from.

Back then there were no telecommunications like we have nowadays, and neither knew what the other looked like…the meeting seemed doomed to failure. So what happened? Lomberg thought that, interestingly, this was a problem with many similarities to SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. How could two people looking for each other successfully meet without having agreed on a meeting point? Lomberg had the idea to write Drake’s equation in large letters on his portfolio and walk through the airport with it. Said equation is related to the probability of finding life in the universe. Sagan had participated in the meeting of the Order of the Dolphin3 in 1961, where Frank Drake presented his famous equation. Lomberg knew it thanks to the book Intelligent Life in the Universe by Sagan and Shlovski, which he had read in 1970 and which had made a profound impression on him. The strategy worked. Sagan recognised the reference, approached him and the two engaged in a two-hour-long conversation on astronomy, art and literature.

Just before leaving, Sagan explained to him that he was putting together a new educational book (one which would eventually become The Cosmic Connection), and proposed a partnership: ‘How would you like to do the illustrations? Think about it and if you’re interested, come to see me in Ithaca.’ Thus began a close relationship which they would maintain until the end of his days.

In this spot, the first works that Lomberg sent to Sagan can be seen, as well as some more personal works by the artist, not connected to their partnership. In particular, the spacesuit is a humorous nod to the science fiction of the 80s.
You can also see photos and memories of the artist at different stages in the production of his works.

Continue the exhibition