Mushroom Cloud Art

As I wrote about in my posts about the movies “Special Bulletin“, “Threads“, “The Day After“, “Black Rain” and “In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud“, I have had an interest in nuclear weapons since my teenage years. As well as the history and development of the weapons themselves, I also find something compelling about the sight of a mushroom cloud itself.

I don’t remember now how I came across the art of Kirsty Harris, but once I did, and particularly the stunning oil on glass pictures, I knew that I wanted one. It took us a while to sort out which mushroom cloud to go with – it’s amazing how many there are (and indeed different views of the same test). There were certain things that I was looking for in the image – for example, seeing hills in the background. We eventually agreed on one which I got in December 2020. While my photograph of the picture is the one used on the post, it really doesn’t do the work of art justice. I think Kirsty’s pictures and video (which I’ve uploaded to YouTube), which she posted on her Instagram account, are much better – so I’m also including them here.

In terms of this particular mushroom cloud, it was part of the Operation Buster-Jangle, conducted at the Nevada Test Site in 1951 (for more information see the Wikipedia page) and was the “Easy” test done on 5 November. Here is a colour picture of the test…

There is also a video on YouTube of the bomb being dropped (this was the first air drop of nuclear weapon by a jet bomber (B-45 Tornado)) – you can clearly see the roads/tracks that feature in the pictures above before the explosion…

There is also a longer video containing a number of colour videos taken from ground level…

Another video shows the bomb being loaded, the explosion and its impact…

Returning to the picture and my interest in the mushroom cloud, I am not 100% sure where this came from now. I remember reading the book “Fields of Thunder” and other books to do with nuclear weapons as a teenager and “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood is my favourite song and I remember pouring over the details about nuclear weapon the record sleeve (but there is limited imagery of the mushroom cloud itself). As a school art project, I even made a ceramic mushroom cloud (which I think is still at my parent’s house) and had some poster depicting Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher with a mushroom cloud (again, I think this is at my parent’s house). I then did my O-level History project about nuclear weapons and the Cold War. But is there more to it than that? I really don’t know. I will be discussing more about this, as I mentioned in my post about the Daigo Fukuryu-maru exhibition, in the third book of my Iwakura Series of novels and it may also come into some of my future academic writing.

In the meantime, I continue to enjoy looking at my picture by Kirsty Harris everyday. There is something horrific about what these weapons can do (something I also discussed in relation to my post on HMS Hood) (also see this news story for more about the impact of tests in Nevada), but there is also a beauty in the raw power of them, the shape of the cloud itself, and what it represents.

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