Thursday, June 11, 2009

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Art and Atoms: Fusion and Fission

Greetings, all,

I think the explosion of creativity surrounding nuclear energy is positively
charged. I have interviewed three creative women whose fathers were nuclear
physicists. Initially, I was surprised to learn of the nuclear heritage of
artists Sheila Pinkel and Nancy Buchanan. After talking with them about
this, Nancy Buchanan introduced me to another Los Angeles creative woman
whose father was a nuclear physicist ­ writer Judith Dancoff, whom she met
when she hosted several ³nuclear daughters² at her home. Judith¹s father,
Sidney Dancoff, died from an aggressive case of lymphatic cancer, most
likely connected to his work at Oakridge. Sheila¹s father focused on the
peacetime development of nuclear energy after the war; Nancy¹s father worked
on radar.

Each of these women has a complicated family history and in different ways
has delved into the history of atomic energy. They have fused art with
history, politics, and science, in some cases in order to better understand
their respective fathers. Nancy Buchanan created a portrait of her father
in ten volumes! of classified and personal documents, which she reframed in
a creative context:

Roger introduced Sheila¹s ³Thermonuclear Gardens² earlier in a post, and the
story of how she learned that her father was a nuclear physicist. Each of
these women has researched much of the history of the development of atomic
energy ­ a history tied to politics, as Gabrielle outlined (HUAC was a real
threat in these physicists¹ lives, especially with a daughter bringing home
³The Communist Manifesto²). The science story of atomic fusion and the
political implications of the bomb and atomic energy are part of these
women¹s ­ and so many people¹s - personal life stories.

My own creative background originates in nuclear energy in a roundabout way,
with a mother armed with a Geiger counter. While trying to close down a
nuclear waste site outside St. Louis, Missouri, my mom ­ an activist and
writer ­ measured the radioactivity of just about everything in our house
(the way someone searches for treasure in a park with a metal detector).
Arguably a radioactive hypochondriac, she did discover the hazards of our
bright orange Fiesta ware, which was made with depleted uranium. And I
became interested in the mechanical instruments of science, which I now
incorporate into my artwork.

Gabriella brought up the issue of society¹s bi-polar relationship to the
atom, scientific building block and war mechanism. Roger, this machine
boy¹s atomic heart and the history of the beginning of animé is so
fascinating. Atomic energy has generated an entire culture of art and
activism. An artist in a creative role at ITER, or with another nuclear
science project, is one possible corrective for our bi-polar condition...
What more?

- Lucy

>> Lucy Hg

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