Nina Elder, The Gadget

Nina Elder, The Gadget, 2011

Nina Elder
born 1981 Colorado Springs, Colorado; lives Albuquerque
The Gadget (Trinity Test Site, July 15, 1945)
graphite and radioactive charcoal on paper
22 x 30 in.
Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, 2017 General Obligation Bonds, © 2020 Nina Elder
photo by David Nufer

The residual effects of nuclear testing on humans and the environment is a theme of Nina Elder’s work. She completed this drawing using radioactive charcoal gathered from forest fires near nuclear test sites. Elder based her drawing of the Gadget on an official classified photograph of the bomb housed in the 100-foot tower where it awaited detonation. The complex wiring system, rendered in fine detail, connected to different explosives that would burn at different frequencies and compress the inner core of plutonium causing it to explode. According to Elder, “The materiality of the work challenges the amnesia and disregard that is often felt towards the land-based legacy of the atomic era.”