In her solo exhibition ‘Moon-shot: First Woman on the Moon’ Helen Schell examines the myths, quasi facts and bizarre theories that exist around space exploration. Schell presents us with a space myth of her own: has a woman been to the Moon?

The official history of lunar exploration is that 12 American men went to the Moon between 1969 and 1972; but many conspiracy theories have grown up over the intervening years – some more elaborate than others. One of the commonest and most enduring ones is that the lunar landings never happened due to the overwhelming difficulties of reaching the Moon and were concocted for the purposes of Cold War politics, and are one of the greatest (as well as most expensive) hoaxes ever played on the public.

Developed on various projects around the UK over the last 2 years, and coinciding with the British Science Festival 2013, in Newcastle 7-12 September, Schell presents a series of large paintings: imaginary Moon rockets, lunar space stations, and evocative images of the Moon. Smaller works on paper include lunar habitats, the phases of the Moon, and what purport to be ‘Moon rocks’.

While in reality, the colossal expense, immense distances and the unremitting hostility of the environment makes sending people into space increasingly more problematic – Schell shows us that in popular culture and in our imaginations the idea of exploring beyond the limitations of our own planet remains as potent and compelling as ever, reflecting a belief in – or at least a hope for – a better life tomorrow.

In addition to ‘Moon-shot’, Schell is showing video footage of a recent performance work, UN-Dress, filmed for the Arthouses event as part of the Whitley Bay Film Festival on Sunday 1 September 2013. The performer wears a dress made from the same plastic material used in washing machine capsules, that dissolves on contact with water. The dress was made for ‘Undress: Redress’, a collaborative project with Arts Centre Washington, NETPark, Durham and Science Learning Centre North East for the Newcastle Science Festival 2012. The performer was Rachael Allen and the filmmakers were Tracey Tofield and Emma Lea from Primate Films Ltd., and Orlan Milstein.

Helen Schell lives in Sunderland, UK. She studied BA Sculpture, Gloucestershire College of Art & Design (1976-80), Post Graduate in Theatre Design, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (1981-82), Glass Techniques, Dudley College International Glass Centre (2002-03), and MA in Glass, University of Sunderland (2006-07). Recent exhibitions include ‘Moon Rocket’, Esero Space Conference, York University, ‘Drawn Together’, World Monument Fund Exhibition, Durham Cathedral (2013), ‘The Faces of Time’, ArcheTime, New York, USA, (2012), ‘Space-Time Laboratory’, Durham University (2010), ‘The 11th Dimension’, Durham Cathedral, ‘I Make Time Machines’, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, ‘The Rocket Project’, Aardman Animations Ltd, Bristol (2009), ‘Time Travel X’, The George Gallery, Newnham-on-Severn (2008), ‘Capsule3 – Time’, Artscape, Gibraltar Point, Toronto, Canada (2007).