Never underestimate the rewards of patience. For Melvin Schuetz, assistant to the curators at Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library, a boyhood fascination with the artist Chesley Bonestell planted a seed that grew into a book and a movie that gets a screening at the world-famous Comic-Con International in San Diego this Friday.
Bonestell was an American artist and architect whose work had considerable impact and influence, though his name recognition today might not be as high as it should be.
As an architect who worked on both the East and West Coasts, he was involved in the design of New York's Chrysler Building, the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. His matte paintings during a time in Hollywood show up in the backgrounds of such films as "Citizen Kane" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
It's his paintings of space vistas and scenes in the 1940s and 1950s, however, that are viewed as his greatest legacy, providing images for a generation thinking about, then going into space.
Those science-fiction images, particularly those in Bonestell's 1949 book "The Conquest Of Space," transfixed Schuetz in his boyhood during the 1960s and lodged firmly in his imagination and memory, ultimately leading to Schuetz devoting years of writing and research to highlight his work (Eric Ames, on Baylor's "Promoting Discovery" blog, has a highly informative account of it here.)
Schuetz, who worked as an Air Force satellite controller before coming to the Armstrong Browning Library, assembled a bibliography of Bonestell's work, "A Chesley Bonestell Space Art Chronology," in 1999. He then collaborated with Ron Miller and Frederick Durant III on the illustrated "The Art Of Chesley Bonestell," a work that won a 2002 Hugo Award, given for outstanding work in science fiction.
Over the years, that book renewed interest in the artist and helped inspire filmmaker Douglass M. Stewart Jr. to put Bonestell's story on film. The result, "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future," with Schuetz and Miller signed on as co-producers, debuted this spring at the Newport Beach Film Festival. It won the Audience Award there and the documentary eventually found its way to the attention of Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival organizers.
It will be screened Friday, with an after-film panel discussion that features Schuetz as well as Hollywood special effects giant Douglas Trumbull ("2001: A Space Odyssey").