WELCOME TO MARK VALLEN'S "ART FOR A CHANGE" WEBSITE
NAGASAKI NIGHTMARE
Art of the Hibakusha (Atom Bomb Survivors). Essay by artist, Mark Vallen.

August 6th, 2011, marks the 68th anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Japan. This collection of art was created by the Japanese who were at the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki... and lived to paint and draw their memories on canvas and paper.

[ Left: "Evening Glow over Hiroshima" ]

On August 6th. 1945, at precisely 8:15 in the morning, the U.S. detonated an Atomic Bomb over the city of Hiroshima. Three days later on August 9th, at precisely 11:02 in the morning - a second Bomb was exploded over the city of Nagasaki. The Japanese called it pikadon (flash-boom). There was a blinding flash of light brighter than the sun, followed by a tremendous shock wave and a searing blast of heat. Huge poisonous mushroom clouds ascended into the sky and a deadly radioactive black rain fell. Those at the center of the blasts were incinerated, leaving only their shadows behind. Others were crushed flat by the concussion of the blasts. Those within a mile and a half of the explosions died from unimaginable burns and intense radiation.
Click the thumbnails for the full picture and explanatory text
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
Those who survived the blasts became known as hibakusha (Atom Bomb Survivors). Weeks after the explosions, even those who where uninjured began to succumb to a terrible plague. Those affected would loose their hair and purple spots would erupt on their skin. Vomiting, diarrhea, and uncontrollable bleeding from the gums was followed by death. At the time the Japanese did not realize they were dying from radiation sickness, instead they imagined they were in some Buddhist Hell. The atomic age began in 1945 with the pulverizing of two major urban centers and the vaporization of some 200,000 human beings. Sadly, hibakusha in Japan are still dying today from their radiation induced sicknesses and wounds.

August 6th, 2011, marks the 68th Anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Solemn commemorations will take place in a world now bristling with thousands of nuclear weapons. The USA, Russia, Britain, France, Israel, China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan all possess weapons of mass destruction many times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Japan. Another arms race has started, with the Obama administration having conducted tests to "examine the effectiveness of its nuclear weapons" and controversies surrounding Iran's likely pursuit of acquiring nuclear weapons. Any use of such weapons would result in untold civilian casualties.

Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
The paintings comprising this exhibition are sober reminders of the reality of atomic warfare, created by people who actually lived through an atomic holocaust. The artworks came about in 1974, when a survivor presented a hand drawn picture to the office of Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK - Japan Broadcasting Corporation). That single drawing was broadcast on Japanese television and soon a flood of thousands of drawings by other hibakusha began to arrive at the offices of NHK. An exhibition of the collected paintings and drawings was mounted at the Peace Culture Center of Hiroshima in 1975, and since that time the artworks have been compiled into several books and traveling exhibitions.
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture
Click to view larger picture

Some of those materials were placed into my hands in 1984, when I had the great honor of meeting Barbara Reynolds. Miss Reynolds (who passed away in 1990) was a Quaker peace activist who had lived in Hiroshima for some 15 years. She was devoted to the cause of world peace and dedicated much of her life's work to spreading the message of the hibakusha. Miss Reynolds entrusted me with a rare copy of a book little known in the West, Hiroshima Nagasaki - A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction. (published in Japan in 1978 by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Publishing Committee). That book is an exhaustive, encyclopedic work that details in chilling photographs what actually occured at ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (some of the hibakusha artworks contained in the book form the basis for this exhibition).

Miss Reynolds also assisted me in bringing the hibakusha artworks to the United States. With her gracious help I was able to mount a Los Angeles Gallery Exhibition in 1984 of some 50 hibakusha artworks (a few of those images also appear on these pages). The majority of artworks presented here were created by non-professional artists, with the exception being three selections by Iri and Toshi Maruki.

Already established artists at the time of the bombings, Iri and Toshi traveled to Hiroshima three days after the blast, and what they found forever change their lives. The artists were haunted by the unbelievable carnage, and three years later they began to draw and paint the hell they had glimpsed. The result of their efforts were the monumental Hiroshima Panels, one of the most profound works of art from the 20th Century. Every bit as impressive as Picasso's famous mural, Guernica, the panels by the Maruki's (now deceased), are on display in a special museum located in Hiroshima.

USEFUL LINKS

The history of the Hiroshima Panels. An excellent overview of the antiwar murals created by artists Iri and Toshi Maruki.
www.answers.com/topic/the-hiroshima-panels

The Hiroshima Panels museum in Japan houses the magnificent murals created by Iri and Toshi Maruki. The museum is in need of financial assistance in order to stay open. Please consider making a contribution to this important cultural institution.
www.aya.or.jp/~marukimsn

Official webpage of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp

Official webpage of the Japanese A-Bomb Museum.
www.atomicbombmuseum.org

In the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombings, the United States sent film crews to record the destruction. The resulting footage was so shocking that the U.S. kept the film secret for 30 years - fearing that it would cast doubt upon its use of atomic bombs. In July of 2011, Greg Mitchell published a book on the subject titled "Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki and The Greatest Movie Never Made". Google pulled the book's online video trailer advertisment, claiming that it "promotes violence." The Raw Story website covered the controversy.

www.art-for-a-change.com is owned and operated by Mark Vallen All text by Mark Vallen