As Washington commemorates the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, "Amber Waves of Grain," a 35,000-piece clay replica of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, presents a timely reflection on the nuclear buildup.
Ceramist Barbara Donachy began the project three years ago. She became concerned with the issue of nuclear weapons after a trip to Europe. "People there were very concerned and very well informed," says Donachy. "And people in the United States had no idea how many weapons we had or how many the Soviets had."
Donachy spent six months researching the nuclear buildup in the United States, and she says her model is very accurate. "I wanted people, in one brief second, to have an image of what 30,000 is and that image to stay with them," she says.
"Amber Waves of Grain" consists of models of 2,000 missiles, 30,000 warheads, 400 planes and 30 submarines. Donachy used a process of "garbage firing" for the work, placing each piece in a box filled with sawdust and dog food and then firing it in a glass kiln. The garbage firing gave each piece a unique color that, as a whole, says Donachy, "from a distance looks like a wheat field."
The 2,000-square-foot exhibit, set up on the Mall at the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Jefferson Drive, runs through Aug. 17. Donachy says the exhibit inspires strong reactions. "Some people just say 'Great.' Some are really surprised, and some are very angry, saying, 'Why didn't you put up the Soviet arsenal?' "
A documentary film about the bombings, "Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- The Harvest of Nuclear War," will be shown Aug. 14 at 12:30 p.m., at the Japan Information and Culture Center, 917 19th St. NW.
The film focuses on the experiences of three survivors and a pathologist, the physical destruction of the cities, the after-effects of radiation and the responsibilities of individuals to prevent nuclear war.