“Hiroshima,” 1994

Oil on linen
134 x 204

So in 1994, when I was in Swedesburg, I was going to do a whole series of war paintings. I didn’t want to do war paintings glorifying war; rather, I wanted to do paintings from the point of view of the feminine–the solution to war. A peaceful, non-violent resolution. My first one was Hiroshima, and I had started it in grisaille.  It was going to be after the bomb dropped. I was doing some pre-internet research, and I found John Hersey’s book Hiroshima, where he talked about one of the women who was a survivor.  She was in her house around 8:20 in the morning, and the “all clear” siren had sounded. The neighbor across the way was tearing his house down shingle by shingle. The mayor of Hiroshima had requested that people tear their house down along certain roads to prevent fire from spreading throughout the town in the case of a bomb being dropped. So people were choosing to sacrifice their houses for the greater good. So she was watching him tear his house down, and her kids were behind her on the mat, safely inside the house. And then behind him there was this yellow flash–BOOM…. About twenty minutes later, she is waking up in the rubble and pushing her roof off of herself. She stands up, and her house is gone. Her kids are gone.  Her neighbor’s house is gone. Every house in every direction is gone, and she is just standing there in the landscape. So I used that story to represent the Hiroshima bombing. I decided to back time up to before the bomb dropped. The Enola Gay is heading that way, but it hadn’t dropped yet. I had already done the grisaille of all the dead figures and the destruction, with all the houses blown over, but after reading that story, I decided to bring it back and bring the yellow sky into the early morning light. I put the woman in the field because I thought the action was more important. They were picking rice in the field, and the “all clear” has sounded. They are standing there, and the little boy is behind the mother with a carp kite, symbolizing courage. The vanishing point is ground zero, the Peace Memorial of Hiroshima, way back there in the distance you can see it. Also, the subjects are rather transparent because of their impending disappearance.


–Bo Bartlett