Here’s a novel idea… let’s scrape all of the nuclear weapons in the world and turn them into works of art. Artist Tony Price (1937-2000) at least showed us this possibility by starting such an undertaking on a small scale.
Price settled in New Mexico in the late 1960’s and discovered the Zia Salvage Yard at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He had the brilliant idea of turning junk from the yard into what he called Atomic Art—literally, the turning of swords into plowshares.
Price’s sculptures of used brass, steel, aluminum and other materials salvaged from the Los Alamos scrap yard, are terrifyingly modern and at the same time icons of an ancient past. Many of his sculptures are in the form of masks inspired by Native American peoples from America’s southwest, like the Zuni, Hopi and Acoma, and carry names like Nuclear Kachina and Earth Protector Kachina. Other mask/sculptures allude to the Aztec Empire, and bear titles like Atomic Aztec God, Atomic Quetzalcoatl, and Nuclear Aztec God Tlaloc.
Still others reference gods or figures from our collective past – Nordic and Hindu deities, even Samurai warriors. Each unique mask stares at us from a past where violence was commonplace, but where no one had the ability or desire to totally destroy the world many times over.
Price’s masks also carry another ominous message… that today’s atomic weapons have become our new gods. We worship them, live under them, and are willing to make mass human sacrifices to them.
Here’s another novel idea, let’s take Price’s sculptures and put them on display before the world community at the United Nations. Sword into Plowshares, Tony Price: Atomic Art, is an exhibit of the artist’s sculptures now on display at the UN’s General Assembly Visitor’s Lobby. The exhibit, on view until June 10th, 2005, is being presented in conjunction with the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference and the 60th anniversary of the UN. View the remarkable works of Tony Price at his official website.