‘Tertium Quid’: Local artist’s work headed to Kennedy Space Center

Provided photo Pat Musick's “Terbium Quid 1” (1970)

Provided photo
Pat Musick’s “Terbium Quid 1” (1970)

By Patricia Minichiello

Every astronaut Pat Musick has ever talked to, including her husband, Jerry Carr, has similar feelings now about the environment.

When looking down from space, way above the Earth’s atmosphere, there is an enlightened moment that happens. Almost instantly, the astronaut becomes an environmentalist, she said.

“They become environmentalists who are very concerned about the fertility of the Earth.”

Musick is an artist who has added her perspective on the environment and her surroundings through art for years.

Before even meeting Carr, she painted a series of oil on canvases titled, “Tertium Quid,” a Latin expression that refers to “a third thing that is indefinite and undefined but is related to two definite or known things.”

The year was 1970 – a time when astronauts first ventured into space – and Musick said she saw mankind as the tertium quid caught between the Earth and outer space, changing, shifting, bending.

Musick said these paintings are a response to our growing exploration of space, as she wondered how humans might change as they moved into outer space.

The Tertium Quid paintings were first exhibited at Cornell University and later in Houston, Texas. Recently, NASA acquired the works for their permanent art collection at the Kennedy Space Center.

“Through the talents, skills and graceful strokes of a brush, we share in the passion and pride that is an important step toward reaching the stars and bringing together the worlds of art and science,” said Luis Berrios, senior design specialist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The paintings will join artworks by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz, Norman Rockwell, and others.

But before heading to NASA, the five paintings that make up the series will be on exhibit at the Helmholz Fine Art gallery in Manchester.

“I’m honored that they are allowing me to have these paintings before they head off to the space center for the permanent collection,” said Lisa Helmholz-Adams, founder of the gallery.

She added that knowing Musick and Carr has given her a better understanding of what it’s like to be out in space, and what astronauts do.

Since creating the paintings, Musick has had the privilege of talking to many astronauts who are personal friends, including her husband, and asking what the experience was like.

“In talking to them as friends as they return from a mission, it’s really interesting … they all say the same thing, ‘The Earth is a very fragile ball that needs to be respected,’” she said.

Musick finds this fascinating, as does Carr, her husband, who experienced it firsthand during his 84-day mission to space from 1973 to 1974.

“I felt a sudden almost alarm at how thin the Earth’s atmosphere is,” Carr remembers. He compared the atmosphere to an apple, with a thin skin between the fruit and the outside world. When you see it that way, he said, “It doesn’t take long for you to be concerned with the Earth’s atmosphere.”

A short documentary film will also be shown during the exhibit. In it, Carr, who commanded the Skylab 4, speaks about his experience, explains the mission, and talks about what it was like to be in outer space.

Helmholz Fine Art
Pat Musick’s “Tertium Quid” painting series will hang at the Helmholz Fine Art gallery, 442 Depot St. in Manchester, through Dec. 14, before heading to NASA’s permanent collection at the Kennedy Space Center. Special “send-off” reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Hours are: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; call 802-855-1678, or go online to helmholzfineart.com