ARTIST TALK: JONATHAN NOTWICK, 2020 MFA

Meet Jonathan Notwick, a photographer. Notwick recalls his parents telling stories about the Cold War, duck and cover drills, and neighbors who created backyard bomb shelters. His recent artwork investigates the history of weapons testing in the American landscape. Notwick’s artwork examines the spectacle of nuclear testing in the Manhattan Project, a U.S. government-led initiative to develop atomic weaponry that began secretly in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1942, and which enlisted some of the world’s most celebrated scientists. In 1945, during a trial called the Trinity Test, the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated in the remote New Mexican desert. The Gadget created a 40,000-foot-high colossal mushroom cloud and ushered in the Atomic Age.

For the exhibition Battin’ A Hundred, Notwick created an installation named Trinity. A floor to ceiling banner depicts a monumental, vivid, orange and yellow mushroom cloud. This image is of the exploding Gadget, and it is both magnificent and horrifying. Notwick created six life-sized cardboard cutout figures that face the blast. The cutouts are not mere human shadows memorializing the devastation or remembering lives lost. Instead, they are photographic facsimiles, the index of tourists, marveling at an icon of power and its destructive capabilities. In 1965, the U.S. military erected a monument on Trinity Site; in 1975 it became a national landmark, and it is visited every year by thousands of tourists. Notwick’s Trinity is a dislocated desert. Paper-thin people marvel at radiant power, yet are removed from the horrific experience of the nuclear legacy. Notwick looks for inspiration to Japanese American artist Patrick Nagatani, who created vibrantly colored photographic constructions that questioned the American development of atomic weapons. Notwick exposes the spectacle of mass destruction and, like Nagatani, questions the wholesale tragedy of nuclear testing that still looms large over the American landscape.

Some fun facts about Notwick: He worked for In-Sight Photography Project, a non-profit arts program offering classes to youth across the country regardless of ability to pay. Notwick hopes you’ll take a look and, if possible, provide support: insightphotography.org. Notwick has two cats, whom he loves very much.

To learn more about Notwick and his practice visit jonnotwick.com

Learn more about Battin’ A Hundred at cam.usf.edu

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