100 suns rise in Fleming

Photographs of atomic explosions comprise Michael Light’s exhibition “100 Suns,” opening at the Fleming Museum Thursday, January 31. But these photographs are more than the popular images of the immense mush?room clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki – in fact, these images ingrained in our collective pop culture memory are no where to be found in the exhibit. Light’s images were taken during test explosions between 1945 and 1992, during which time the United States government shifted explosion sites from the sea to islands in the Pacific Ocean and in the desert, 63 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 1,000 bombs were detonated during these tests; many of them were captured on film. Light got rights to these formerly secret photographs from the U.S. National Archives and Los Alamos National Laboratory and then rephotographed them, making them his own. “100 Suns” is comprised of 100 of these photos along with text and other images created by Light. “I work with big subjects and grand issues,” Light said in an interview with afterimage. “…I am fascinated about that point where humans begin to become inconsequential and realize their smallness in relation to the vastness that is out there.” Environmental and ethical impacts were hardly considered in conducting these tests in remote areas. The titles of these sublime and catastrophically beautiful photographs are a simple number and name of the bomb, its size in kilotons, the location of detonation and the date. “036 Grable, 15 Kilotons, Nevada 1953” exemplifies how the exhibit got its name. “100 Suns” is in reference to Oppenheimer’s response to the first nuclear explosion, borrowing from the Eastern Bhagavad Gita, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One … I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” “100 Suns” opens Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Fleming Museum with an opening reception and appearance by Michael Light from 5:30-7:30 p.m. It shall run until June 1.