1. “Black Velvet BOOM,” by Lisa Dittrich
Paint on black velvet is our culture’s ultimate kitschifier — look what it did to that other mid-century earth-shaker, Elvis — so there’s a deepish comedy in painting an almost joyously colorful mushroom cloud on that lush, black material. Dittrich turns the ultimate symbol of doom into something you might find at a flea market. Just as we’ve come to regard the doomsday weapon as a cute artifact of another time.
2. “We’re No Dummies,” by Mike Korn
The photos of mannequins in domestic poses recall the dummies set up in fake houses on the Nevada Test Site during nuclear explosions. Ringed around them is a quote from Gandhi: “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that’s the myth of the Atomic Age — as in being able to remake ourselves.” So where do we fall between Gandhi’s optimism and the passive acceptance of the dummies?
3. “Open Letter to Oppenheimer,” by Peter Mengert
Oppenheimer, of course, is J. Robert, chief architect of the atomic bomb, who famously recalled the words of the Bhagavad Gita: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” To Mengert, that sounded less apoclyptic than circle-of-life: What follows destruction but new growth? Thus inspired, he created this luminous image of a mushroom cloud phasing into a jellyfish — into diaphanous, resilient, glowing life.
4. “Neutron Bombshell,” by Joel Spencer
Backlit through a fine mesh that gives this piece a subtle pointillist feel, Spencer’s dreamboat relaxes in the warm glow of a nuclear blast. The image slyly recalls the era of bomb-watching as kicky fun, back when the mushroom cloud was a symbol of America’s technological supremacy. For her, the future’s so bright, she’s gotta wear shades. Never mind the bomb’s negative effects, symbolized by the X-ray effect it’s having on her body.
ATOMIC VEGAS at Blackbird Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St., 782-0319