This picture was inspired by a question I asked myself as a potential space miner. Would there be asteroids with openly available deposits of gold or other precious metals or elements? I didn't have much geological knowledge, but I speculated with this picture that there would be broken-up rock material which would reveal rich and shiny gold veins and nuggets, just there for the taking.
Turns out with a casual Web search (which didn't exist in 1990 when I painted this, it seems unbelievable) that gold deposits usually form on planets with water and atmosphere, where water under steam pressure leaches gold out of rocks and then deposits it in veins and pockets. So in order to have accessible gold in space you need some sort of liquid water processing, which wouldn't take place in the hard vacuum of space.
So what might be going on here is that these rocks are the remains of a planet that once had water and an atmosphere, and that its disintegrated fragments break open to reveal the gold that the water had left there. I hope that there wasn't any life on the planet when it broke apart. There's gold in them thar asteroids.
"Gold-bearing Asteroids" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", October 1990.