Well, this is my eighth Crossroads painting, sorta. Somehow, while I was making the umpteenth change to what was a relatively uninspired and not terribly effective painting, it morphed into something very different. Quieter, less chaotic. It reminds me of how Frank O’Cain at the Art Students League says we should let the painting tell us what it needs.
Last year I tried (unsuccessfully, I might add) to paint the ice floating on the Harlem and Hudson rivers at Spuyten Duyvil one winter evening. I think I just figured out how. Better late than never.
I have no idea when this will finally stop, but I have done another Crossroads painting: Crossroads VII. Although still abstract, this painting is pretty representational: you do get the sense that you’re looking at an atomic test mushroom cloud in the making. Or in this case, the unmaking, since the mushroom cloud is starting to collapse to form the white radioactive cloud at its base.
The awesome power of the bomb that can continue to force up that central column of water even as the mushroom cloud is collapsing is indescribable.
And the multitude of American ships positioned near the Bikini Atoll and the seamen on them were just so much “collateral damage.” We already knew how powerful these bombs were; what were we thinking?!? Years later, one of our scientists described the 1946 tests as our “first atomic disaster.”
Well, I still wake up at night thinking about how those thousands of American seamen must have felt watching that huge radioactive cloud expand to envelop their ships. And so I continue to paint more Crossroads paintings.
I saw the archival footage just twice of the 1946 atomic tests, but there was no escaping the awesome power and horror. There are no words… all I can do is to try and paint it again and again.
The experience is so different from seeing those beautiful color pictures of the mushroom cloud in Life Magazine. There the image was static, unmoving. Here, you watch as it happens, as the blinding flash erupts right in the middle of the ships, as the column and mushroom cloud form and then slowly start to fall and disintegrate, forming a new radioactive cloud at the ocean level that inexorably envelops every last ship. The horror of those images is indescribable.
Crossroads V is the most representational of the paintings I’ve done so far. You can see the central column still rising even while the mushroom cloud has started to fall and the newer radioactive cloud at the base is just forming.
The ships were huge, yet so tiny against that ultimate maelstrom engulfing them.