It has been said that the first atomic bomb, detonated at the Trinity site near Alamogordo in New Mexico on the 16th July, 1945 at 5.29 am, marks the beginning of the Anthropocene. That first bomb, and those that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year, were created over 200 miles from Trinity at the secret Los Alamos site as part of the Manhattan Project.
The body of work that resulted in 101 Views of the Anthropocene comes from a research trip I did with my partner. She, writing about World War Two and Robert Oppenheimer (Oppie), the so-called the father of the atomic bomb; me, painting and drawing impressions of the Anthropocene. We travelled first to Japan—to Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Miyajima, and then to a mountain studio to paint. I love Washi paper and on the way to the mountain studio, bought some in Kyoto. As I painted impressions of places on Washi I was influenced by my appreciation of Zen calligraphy. The final pieces I pasted onto French Archers paper, using rice glue. We then flew to the USA and I carried the Washi paper with me. In USA we went from Boston, to New York, Washington and San Francisco, visiting locations relevant to Oppie and the war. From Albuquerque, we drove to Santé Fe, then Los Alamos. New Mexico is a beautiful landscape of rocky desert land and flat top mountains— mesas (meaning table-top)—that is woven through with meandering rivers and stands of yellow cottonwood trees and whispering Aspens.
Our visit to the Trinity site—only open for two days a year and still radioactive—made quite an impact on me. To walk on this land and think Let’s blow it up! At the gates to the site there were people protesting: still seeking compensation for failing health from the fallout, and for the destruction of family desert farms.
I am an admirer of the Japanese artist, Hokusai, and am in debt to him for his Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. All the sites I painted are in some way players in the making of the Anthropocene.
101 Views of the Anthropocene opens over the weekend of October 23-25th 2020 at The SHAC 74-76 Hoddle Street Robertson, NSW, 2577 Australia.