Artist Richelle Gribble spent her childhood in Idyllwild. She attended Idyllwild School from kindergarten through eighth grade, then went to Idyllwild Arts Academy for high school. The arts have paved her way through her career so far, expanding her understanding of how she can share it with the masses.
Gribble attended University of Southern California (USC) graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art with dual minors in social entrepreneurship and marketing.
Gribble has been exploring local ecosystems, creating art to interpret that exploration. In the last five years, she completed 17 residency programs all over the world.
She’s been everywhere from Japan, where she learned traditional papermaking techniques and learned how to paint using natural resources from the land, to venturing to the Arctic Circle, with only a 10-degree difference between her and the North Pole.
While in the Arctic Circle, she sailed with 20 other scientists or artists, taking in the magnitude of what the arctic ecosystem has to offer.
“I found as an artist you learn so much from actually being there,” Gribble said. “You get to see things that people would otherwise miss or hear things that you’ve never heard before.”
Gribble interprets those sights and sounds through her art to help open that ecosystem to those who will never have the opportunity to experience such things.
“An example of that is in the Arctic Circle,” Gribble explained. “The sounds surprised me most. The sound of the water and the ice melting would create a fizzy, popping sound throughout the entire ocean. I’ve always felt that artists can translate these experiences and share them with people who are unable to venture to distant, often remote locations. Often times the places that are furthest away are ones that need our attention.”
As Gribble continues to take these amazing adventures, her main goal is to show how everything on earth is connected.
“My mission as an artist is to fuse artistic exploration with expedition to reflect these different communities and ecosystems ranging from deserts to jungles to show how interconnected they are,” Gribble explained. “No matter the distance, everything links into a larger global ecosystem.”
Gribble has called this journey The Nomadic Artist project, pursuing her art full-time while venturing all over the globe. Now she’s ready to embark on the next level — space.
Gribble recently learned about the “Overview Effect.” It’s a term that is widely used in the space and astronaut world.
“The Overview Effect was coined after Frank White interviewed 45 astronauts who went to space,” Gribble said. “The term means a cognitive shift in awareness when astronauts realize there are no boundaries or borders and it’s all one large system.”
This is Gribble’s goal with her artwork. She wants to show how all the systems and networks connect.
Gribble also immersed herself at Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona. Biosphere 2 is a science research facility that has been around since the early 1990s.
“I was an artist-in-residence working in the Biosphere 2 and researched how we could build our own sustainable living systems both on and off Earth,” Gribble said.
As she learned how all of these systems are connected, she came to realize that there are plenty of opportunities to educate people even from space.
Even though Gribble’s art has already orbited the globe, she wants to experience space firsthand.
“As an artist, I’ve been able to etch my art onto four satellites that are in orbit now, and aboard two different rockets,” Gribble explained. “Our creativity is boundless and the sky is not the limit. I’d love to do an artist-in-residence program in space or help develop one — there is no limit to where art can go.”
At Biosphere 2, Gribble heard about a program that takes this experience one step further. On Nov. 2, after a two-week quarantine, Gribble will be a part of the Sensoria Program at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) habitat in Hawaii. The two-week-long program will simulate being on Mars.
“We eat all dehydrated foods, live in close quarters and track daily duties and health reports,” Gribble said. “Anytime we leave the habitat, we will wear a spacesuit and any communications to Mission Control will have a 20-minute delay to simulate being on Mars. We are all performing our individual research projects throughout the mission.”
While this is a unique experience, this will also be the second time that there will be an all-female crew. The crew will be made up of six women. Gribble is the only artist. The other five will be scientists or researchers who will be studying life, lava tubes and habitats on Martian terrain.
“I never thought I’d become an aspiring art astronaut, but I’ve found a calling to use space to help life on Earth,” Gribble said.
Comparing the astronaut experience with COVID-19 has also been at the forefront of Gribble’s mind. In essence, there are many parallels to it.
“That experience is so similar to what we’ve done during lockdown, contemplating what it means to be connected during a pandemic and then, the physical comparison as well,” Gribble said. “As an astronaut, you can’t leave the enclosure without proper gear, just like with COVID-19 with masks and being properly protected.”
Gribble created the Great Pause Project, a crowdsourced project that reflects on our collective experiences through the pandemic.
“People can submit photos or complete a questionnaire about their experiences,” Gribble said. “The objective is to create a time capsule of this time, comprised of many perspectives and stories.”
If you’d like to learn more or participate in the Great Pause Project, go to www.greatpauseproject.com.
Art is powerful and can change a person in many different ways in a single moment. Knowing there is already art in orbit, thanks to Gribble’s talent, it makes you think about how opportunities can be limitless.