Thinking about my process in general is complicated. I feel like art is life and everything I do is somehow in process of creating this life. That being said I do recognize that when I consciously devote time to art making it can look very different from traditional art practices. I am a mover, a dancer, a singer, a skater, a mother, a mudder, a sculptor, a skilled seamstress and builder. My art practice includes all these things and more, things like research that I am just learning to recognize as part of my artistic process.
These past few months I have been researching and reimagining the Manhattan Project and the creation of the first atomic bomb. I have been fascinated with the secrecy and determination it took to build the town of Los Alamos and in turn the weapons that changed the world and ended World War II.
Los Alamos Investigations . . .
began to make a model of the town in 1944 using World War II picture books.
The paths I followed . .
In the process of making the model I travelled to Los alamos and spent the day investigating the museum that is located on the site that was the Boys School before it was the Lodge where the physicists bunked. I learned that the land was chosen for it’s ability to be secure and defendable up on top of the finger like bluffs of the Los Alamos mesa. This inspired me to try and build a base for the model that might represent these finger like land formations. I started by making adobe bricks formed in seltzer water boxes. When I stacked them up I found they were not exactly the right fit for the model and their appearance was quite pleasing aesthetically with the bright color combinations. I ended up making more water box bricks and building a wall as a barrier on a private road in my neighborhood.
The quilt and sculptures . . .
I originally began the Trinity quilt thinking it too could create a base for the model and represent the many invisible women who worked behind the scenes to support the men who built Los Alamos and the bomb. I often use sewing and stitching to convey feminist themes and soft sculpture as a means to soften a masculine concept like I am doing here with the theme of national defense. For this project I was visually inspired by the gadget from the Trinity test. I created the quilt and the sculptural patches to reflect the gadget before it was activated with explosives and covered in patches. The wires, once plugged in, promoted activation and lead to detonation. The stitching on the quilt and the blue and gray wire sculptures are coiled and stitched in response to these patterns of detonation wires.
All of these investigations were fun to create and ended up being a good place to draw inspiration for a socially engaged project. I kept thinking, how could I take what I learned about the making of the first atomic bomb and transform that into a work of art that promotes change?
I live rurally and one thing that stuck out to me as I travelled to the city for this class was the increase in the visibility of people living without permanent shelter. The opportunities for art to function in this marginalized community is limited.
With these things festering in my thoughts I began to conceptualize a temporary tent like shelter shaped like an atomic bomb. This Bomb Shelter could function as a sculpture to bring awareness to the nuclear history of New Mexico and it’s struggling population of folks without permanent housing.
My process began by moving through all the previous research, embodied and otherwise, then making the model, the quilt, the wheat paste and soft sculpture responses. I don’t think I would have arrived at this final idea without processing all that other work.