As a budding young artist at Riviera Elementary in Palm Bay, Jonlouis Gonzalez remembers going outside to the kickball field to watch rocket and space shuttle launches streak across the sky from Cape Canaveral.
Now 27, Gonzalez is an established “space art” fixture in Miami’s contemporary art scene. And one of his colorful paintings featuring two dancing astronauts flew into orbit aboard Inspiration4, SpaceX’s historic all-civilian orbital mission in September.
Gonzalez’s painting, “Embrace II,” is among a variety of Inspiration4 flown-in-space items placed on the auction block Monday morning by Charitybuzz. Proceeds will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I think it’s a really immense feeling. Because our whole career is really based on creating impact. And to have this moment of worldwide impact is getting closer to our goal — we want to touch as many people as we can with our art,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s also opening my eyes to how far I can really take this,” he said.
“I look at this moment, and I embrace it. But then I look further beyond as well, like what can we do next?” he said.
The painting’s estimated value is $2,500, and the 10-day online auction ends Nov. 10.
Inspiration4 took flight on Sept. 15 from Kennedy Space Center pad 39A with an all-civilian crew: billionaire and mission commander Jared Isaacman; Sian Proctor, who became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft; St. Jude’s physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux; and Lockheed Martin engineer Chris Sembroski.
Proctor met Gonzalez and discovered his artwork at the KSC Visitor Complex during the facility’s 2019 Yuri’s Night Space Coast party. Yuri’s Night is an annual global event honoring Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first person to orbit Earth aboard Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961.
“I followed him on Instagram, and I was always like, ‘Wow, I love his work.’ So when I knew that I was going to go up and I could take stuff with me, I reached out to him and I asked him for two paintings,” Proctor said.
“He’s great. He’s so talented. It was a no-brainer for me to reach out to him and say, ‘I want to take your art to space with me,’ ” she said.
Inspiration4 fundraising efforts for St. Jude’s have surpassed $239 million, topping the mission’s $200 million goal. Isaacman, who founded Shift4 Payments, pledged $100 million of that sum. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has pledged $50 million.
“It means the world to all of us, me and my crew, in knowing that we really resonated with the entire world with the Inspiration4 mission. And how many people rallied behind us to support this effort to end childhood cancer,” Proctor said.
Other Inspiration4 payload items offered Monday by Charitybuzz include a custom-made jacket, sunglasses, toys from the animated series “Space Racers,” and an autographed copy of Douglas Adams’ science fiction novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
“Once the crew came back successfully and safely, there were quite a few pieces of merchandise, memorabilia, artwork, etc. that were taken up into space that have been and will continue to be auctioned off, all to support St. Jude’s,” Charitybuzz President Ben Erwin said.
A St. Jude’s spokesperson said hospital officials were unavailable for comment on the fundraising campaign.
Charitybuzz is also conducting an auction for Proctor’s metallic-marker art piece “Seeker.” This piece traveled undersea to the bottom of the Mariana Trench with private astronaut Richard Garriott and the Titanic shipwreck with space shuttle astronaut Scott Parazynski. Then she brought it into orbit aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.
“I call it adventure art: art that has traveled to extreme, remote locations that barely any humans have gone before,” Proctor said.
“How many pieces of art will ever go to those three places again in history?” she asked.
Proceeds from the sale of “Seeker” will benefit St. Jude’s. Charitybuzz lists its estimated value at $25,000.
The “Seeker” online auction wraps up at noon Friday. Top bids will be submitted during a live event Saturday at Charles Krug Winery in California’s Napa Valley.
Proctor took two of Gonzalez’s paintings into space. She is donating “Embrace II” to St. Jude’s and keeping the other at her Arizona house.
Gonzalez is a 2012 Palm Bay Magnet High graduate who also attended Stone Magnet Middle School.
He typically works on his space-themed paintings during two five-hour shifts per day, using spray paint, watercolors and oil sticks. His work has been exhibited at the KSC Visitor Complex and in Miami, New York, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
In late September, Gonzalez traveled to Utah and toured Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and other desert locales to study textures and tonalities of Mars-like rock, sand and terrain to research a future painting for a collector
Gonzalez bought a second house in Palm Bay in September, but he plans to postpone furnishing the home until Art Basel wraps up in early December in Miami Beach. He hopes to open an art gallery on the Space Coast.
Touted as the world’s first all-civilian orbital mission, Inspiration4 was chronicled in the Netflix docuseries “Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space.”
Next, SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission, which will send four astronauts on a six-month mission to the International Space Station, is scheduled for launch at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday from KSC.
Crew-3 was initially set to take flight on Halloween, but SpaceX and NASA managers postponed the launch because of poor weather conditions downrange over the Atlantic Ocean.