The Beginning

Trinity: Reflections on the Bomb The Beginning

On July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., the first atomic bomb, nicknamed the “Gadget,” was detonated in an area known as Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico. The assembly of the bomb and planning of the test took place primarily in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the top-secret “Manhattan Project.” Employees in Los Alamos included scientists from all over the country as well as workers from local New Mexico communities. It is estimated that over 600,000 people worked on the Manhattan Project in sites throughout the United States.

The testing of the first bomb was code-named “Trinity” by Manhattan Project director, J. Robert Oppenheimer. The Gadget was detonated in a 100-foot high tower and left a crater 10 feet deep and over 1,000 feet wide. The explosion melted the sand of the surrounding desert, creating a light green, radioactive, glass-like substance referred to as Trinitite.

The event was described in the Clovis Journal from the same day as an explosion of “a remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosive and pyrotechnics.” The paper warned the community that the army may evacuate civilians from their homes, though no evacuation took place. US Census data shows that there were at least 40,000 people living within a 50-mile radius of the Trinity test site. Many of those in the surrounding area are members of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium—an organization that compiles data on the high rate of cancers and other health complications that proliferate in the communities downwind from the Trinity test site.

In New Mexico, nuclear weapons development includes the mining of uranium - often on Diné and Pueblo lands, developing weapons at Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs, testing of weapons at White Sands Missile Range, and disposing of nuclear waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The nuclear complex in New Mexico bolstered the economy, but it also created devastating impacts on the health of New Mexicans and raised significant environmental concerns. While views differ about the use and development of the atomic bomb, the Trinity test launched the world into the Nuclear Age, changing it forever.

This exhibition presents 75 years of artistic responses to radioactivity, the bomb, and the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many of the works shown here are highly personal and evoke poignant responses. They invite us to consider the consequences of the Atomic Age—intended or not—positive or negative.

Click on an individual image to learn more or click the button below to view the gallery in order.

Enter this Gallery

Nina Elder, The Gadget (Trinity Test Site, July 15, 1945), 2011

Nina Elder, Jumbo (Trinity Test Site, April 7, 1945), 2012

Nina Elder, Trinity Test Site (August, 1945), 2012

Karsten Creightney, The Beginning, 2011