Thia Lynn’s works meditate on memories of nuclear weapons 

click to enlarge GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
Artist Thia Lynn remembers growing up with stories of the Japanese-American internment camp that was set up at the Piggly Wiggly next to Gonzales Community School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which she attended as a child. She’s been to the Castillo Street Bridge, which she says was nicknamed the Manhattan Bridge, where physicist Klaus Fuchs sold nuclear weapons data to Soviet agent Harry Gold. She’s 58, but these landmarks are part of her internal landscape — the natural result of living less than 40 miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where the Manhattan Project developed the first nuclear weapons.

Nuclear warfare and its consequences have weighed on her mind for some time. A series of four pieces, dubbed “Toxic,” sees mesh screens built into clothing, painted and hung.

“It [suggests] the feeling of ghosts and shadows,” she says. With strong light shining through, they’re meant to evoke how people’s shadows were burnt into the landscape when nuclear bombs hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They’re haunting.

Another piece, dubbed “The Gadget,” is based on the plutonium-core implosion-type bomb of the same name that served as the base design for Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945. It’s made from a globe she had as a child, painted gray, covered with gauze and tubing. We bond over the piece — I went to college 35 miles from the Trinity test site, where The Gadget was detonated.

Lynn brings up trinitite, the radioactive green glass that resulted from the heat of the Trinity test melting the sand nearby. She has three installation pieces, dubbed “Green Glass Sea,” that hypothesize the desert landscape after a blast.

A piece dubbed “Generations,” explores how memories and stories change and decay over time.

“I view my parents’ generation as being a clear recollection,” she says. “[It’s] decay, deterioration, even Alzheimer’s or dementia.”


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