In the mid 19th century, painters of the Rocky Mountain School set out on government-funded expeditions to document the American West. Moved by such explorations, Thomas Moran painted “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,” providing the viewing public with a first glimpse of the unsettled frontier.  Gradually, the West was revealed through the heightened sense of the sublime endemic to that artistic movement, stimulating the public imagination. Tourism increased, funding the development of the railroad and further driving westward expansion. 

Prior to advanced methods of photographing space, 20th century artists such as Chesley Bonestell helped visualize the cosmos. The painstaking task of telescopic observation often resulted in over-rendered images which verged on abstraction, unconstructive in evoking the grand scope of the heavens. Collaborating with astronomers, Bonestell translated observational data into paintings of habitable worlds. Starting in the 1950s, National Geographic began to publish his hyperrealistic renderings of the solar system. These images were instrumental in developing the culture of the space race, eventually leading to the first man on the moon. 

In the 21st century, the definition of frontier expands to accommodate extra-solar planets, hidden dimensions, and the quantum universe. Frontiers considers the immediate threshold preceding experiences of the unknown, and explores the varied ways artists draw from what is understood to envisage the otherworldly. As we assimilate new bodies of knowledge, we make sense of strangeness through familiar systems. Guided by intuition, Matthew F. Fisher, Pete Schulte, Mary Laube, Mike Nudelman, Kristy Luck and Ian Etter allude to past cognizance while visualizing new horizons.