Doomtown: The Art of Atomic TESTIng andCULTURE

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Doomtown II – Artist’s Statement

 These paintings are a product of growing up watching afternoon monster matinees as soon as I got home from school. My father also enjoyed watching these monster films – some of the only things we ever did together.

 The love of monsters led to a little research into what made them. In the 1950s, the source was “THE BOMB” specifically the paranoia that surrounded the creation of the atomic bomb on U.S. soil, and the world’s response to the wielding of that power. As the bomb was tested in the Nevada desert, the Atomic Energy Commission constructed a number of what they called “Survival Towns” nicknamed “Doomtowns” by some of the workers. These were simulated American towns, complete with schools, homes and vehicles populated with clothed mannequins provided by the J.C. Penney company in return for advertising rights (!). “Yes, this suit withstood an atomic blast, though the head is missing.” Once constructed, bombs were exploded nearby to see what the effects would be. The results were published in LIFE magazine and other places, adding fuel to the fire of a generation already besieged by Red Scare tactics and a Duck and Cover mentality. When was the bomb going to fall on us?

 How does one go through life knowing that the United States could be turned to ashes at any given moment? Why, you domesticate the bomb, of course. Instead of being an instrument of unimaginable destruction, the bomb became the source of giant fire-breathing lizards, glowing killer mutants, creatures awakened from prehistoric sleep and a whole host of super-sized monsters. What better way to alleviate the deep-seated psychological torture and paranoia of imminent doom than to relegate it to the fodder of the weekend drive-in movie? Add to the mix the fact that Russia beat us to the punch by launching the Soviet Sputnik satellite and you can add outer space to the atomic age of design and movies in space-age mid-century American culture. Fallout shelters, car fins, gaudy Las Vegas signage, tiki bars, killer robots, mutant monsters – they are all children of the atom. That’s what this show is about, just trying to make a new generation aware of a part of U.S. history that tends to not really make it into the history books. Hopefully you will find this era as curious and fun as I do.