The Arts Of Nuclear (Dis)Enchantment

Elliott McDowell, Tony at Yucca Flats, 1982. Taken at McDowell’s studio in Tesuque. Price painted the mushroom cloud on the backdrop and on his glasses. Courtesy of Elliott McDowell.



Perhaps in no other comparable area on earth are condensed so many contradictions, or manifested so clearly the opposite polarities of all life. The oldest forms of life discovered in this hemisphere and the newest agents of mass death. The Sun Temple of Mesa Verde and the nuclear fission laboratories of the Pajarito Plateau. The Indian drum and the atom smasher.

– Frank Waters, Masked Gods: Navajo and Pueblo Ceremonialism

Frank Waters was one of the first New Mexican literary figures to write about the extraordinary dissonance in Los Alamos’s politics of location: the laboratory of the Manhattan Project, constructed on the archaic sites of still-thriving Pueblo cultures, whose ceremonials were intended to ensure the continuance of their people, as well as life on earth. These contradictions have provided fertile ground for New Mexico artists from 1946 through the present day, including Cady Wells, Tony Price, Patrick Nagatani, Meridel Rubenstein, Judy Chicago, Erika Wanenmacher, and Marion Martinez. The question for the Atomic Artists who followed in the bomb’s wake has always been: how do you, how can you, create an art that is remotely commensurate with the massively devastating consequences of the bomb?

CADY WELLS (1904–1954)

Cultural geographer J. B. Jackson wrote that northern New Mexico’s topography “looked (until the atomic bomb) like the world after history had come to an end.”1 The first—and only New Mexican artist of his generation—to respond directly to the profound historic fault line created by the bomb was Cady Wells. An escapee from the East Coast, Wells lived in the Pojoaque Valley, to which he returned from the US Army in 1945, after serving in the European theater during the last nine months of World War II.

The anxieties Wells suffered from his war experiences were immediately exacerbated by the daily explosions on the Pajarito Plateau, which shook the windows and rafters of his home, some twelve miles away. He lived in constant fear that he was at the epicenter of Ground Zero; that what was ongoing at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL, or the Lab) would end his life, along with the world he had thought he had gone to war to help save. Although Los Alamos was primarily testing conventional explosive devices, no one on the outside knew what was going off on “the Hill.” When Wells saw clouds shaped like mushrooms forming on the horizon, he understandably thought he was viewing atomic bomb blasts.

Writing to his New York dealer about the influence of Los Alamos on his postwar work, Wells sardonically noted: “I think I have a wonderful name for the landscapes: ‘New Mexico Landscapes—Contaminated Areas’—That is the name they give to [a] certain section of Los Alamos that they have worked upon and destroyed. But the project, itself, to me, has contaminated the whole country.”2 Like his fellow Abstract Expressionists, though in a more Surrealist vein, Wells focused on primordial and archetypal themes and images, in particular those that were visibly evident in the physical and cultural landscapes that surrounded his home.

What today would be called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is manifested in the nightmarish fantasy of Wells’s Cambrian Fields, ca. 1946. Here a writhing, serpent-like monster dominates a field of garishly acidic yellow-green. The fantastical creatures and haunted landscapes Wells painted after the war might have been inspired by a recurring dream

he had that his house had suddenly been buried under “a hundred feet of ashes.”

Wells seems to have had no influence on the subsequent generations of artists who took up the challenges of living in a landscape that boasted of having one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring geographies in the American West, at the same time that it earned the sobriquet “mother goddess of the nuclear age.”3 There were, however, modernists of Wells’s generation whose abstract works were deployed during the 1950s and 1960s by Lab magazines like Missiles and Rockets to promote the Lab’s expanding work. This expansion was subsidized by multimillions of federal dollars and contributed to doubling Los Alamos’s population to 12,000 within the first decade of the Cold War.

As Megan Prelinger points out in her fascinating study of the confluence of modern art and the nuclear industry, Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race, 1957–1962 (2010), “The Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory partnered with Southwest fine artists to create a long-running campaign that harnessed sophisticated abstract art to the purpose of recruiting top-notch scientists.”4 Two of the best of the Taos Moderns contributed their preexistent work. Emil Bisttram’s Ascending (1958), which could be (a somewhat fantastical) diagram for a sophisticated engineering project, was subtitled by the Lab, “Scientific objectivity characterizes the examination of natural forces in the experimental laboratories at Los Alamos.” In Oli Sihvonen’s constructivist abstraction Blue Spot, an earthlike orb surrounded with what could be read as particle matter is subtitled “Experimentation in nuclear motion and energy.”

TONY PRICE (1937–2000)

The artist who is considered the father of atomic art in New Mexico, Tony Price, was born into the atomic age, but matured within the hippie and alternative rock music worlds of the 1960s and 1970s. Price was a musician and cartoonist who joined the Marine Corps in the early 1960s and ended up in San Francisco around the time of the Summer of Love, in 1967. That year he visited a friend in El Rancho, New Mexico, and one year later he settled there, not far from Los Alamos. During his first year, he discovered Ed Grothus’s Black Hole, a salvage yard where scrap metal parts from the Los Alamos weapons laboratories were dumped. Grothus had worked at the Lab but had turned antinuclear activist by the time he opened up shop. “No one,” Grothus said, “should have the power to destroy a million people in a microsecond.”5

For Price, “The atomic bomb kind of nullified everything in the future . . . once they set off the first one, it was like a Pandora’s box.” Repurposing the detritus of death into life-giving sculptures became Price’s means of “beating swords into ploughshares” and his life-long-vocation: “Los Alamos to me was finding a place of just pure raw material and fantastically, beautifully shaped metals . . . just as if hundreds of men had machined these things for hundreds of hours and carted it out and dumped it right there in front of my feet.”6 As Price was fond of explaining, his was intended to be an alchemical art that transformed the nihilistic energy of atomic salvage “into iconography of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions” in order to shift the atomic equation from death to life. Thus, many of the hundreds of pieces he created over thirty years reference gods and goddesses of world religions—Hindu, Christian, and Native American. With a piece like Hopi Nuclear Maiden, Price combined “‘primitive’ iconography and modern materials” (a long-lived tradition for New Mexico artists) as a way of “building a bridge between his world and the traditions of ancient cultures.”7

In the summer of 1986, Tony Price was given an exhibition in the Governor’s Gallery at the New Mexico statehouse of his atomic art. It coincided with the fortieth anniversary of the first atomic bomb test and included a worldwide satellite linkup that connected to Soviet media in the new era of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika.


Artist Meridel Rubenstein incorporated sounds from some of Price’s sculptures into her multimedia work about Robert Oppenheimer and Los Alamos, Archimedes’ Chamber. Rubenstein, who came to New Mexico in 1973 to attend the University of New Mexico, has noted the link between her generation and Price’s: “There’s this amazing binary of different mythologies going on on the Pajarito Plateau—the myth of eternal return with the indigenous peoples and then the myth of the end of the world with the scientists that have come here. . . . Tony’s sculptures embody all these ideas at once. [He] was a great influence on us.”9 Those mythologies are given ironic “shape” in the churchlike windows that frame the people who were both major (and minor) actors in the formation of an unholy Trinity (evoking Oppenheimer’s name for the atomic bomb test site in Alamogordo, in the appropriately named Jornada del Muerto (Route of the Dead Man).

In Archimedes’ Chamber, Rubenstein linked the “father” of the atomic bomb with the Avanyu petroglyph of the plumed serpent Quetzal, which is the guardian of the Tewa Pueblos’ most sacred spring: “If the people do not take care of the land and the water, Avanu [sic] will turn the water into fire.”10 Oppenheimer was certainly aware of mythical connections, although he turned to the Hindu Bhagavad Gita for his much-quoted reference to it after the atomic bomb test at Trinity Site: “‘I am become Death, / The shatterer of worlds.” Rubenstein chose to identify Oppenheimer with Archimedes, the third-century BCE physicist who gave up his theoretical work to create massive new weapons of war in order to defend his city, Syracuse, from Roman invasion. One of the (apocryphal) weapons he created came to be known as the Death Ray, a set of large bronze mirrors which purportedly focused light on the ships of the Roman armada so that they burst into flames.

Archimedes’ Chamber was part of a larger project that Rubenstein titled Critical Mass (1993), which she worked on with poet Ellen Zweig and video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka. Her goal was to bring together the local and global, the domestic and the scientific, by juxtaposing images of Edith Warner and her companion, Tilano Montoya, a former governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo, with the famous scientists who came to dine on weekends at Warner’s home at Otowi Crossing in order to escape the confines of their lives at the Lab. There Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, and others mixed with the workers from the contiguous San Ildefonso Pueblo. Rubenstein wanted “to enlarge the lives of ordinary people, [and] strip the mythic characters of history down to their ordinariness.”11

Critical Mass opened on the fiftieth anniversary of the first detonation of the atomic bomb, traveling across the country over the next year, and raising, in critic Lucy Lippard’s sardonic words, “a lot of questions for avant-garde artists who are concerned with the politics of place but hold aesthetic priorities that keep them indoors.” Oppenheimer’s Chair (1995), an exquisitely crafted work of sand-blasted and etched glass and iron, referenced the vulnerability of the human race in the nuclear age: “We all sit in Oppenheimer’s chair. It’s made of glass,” Rubenstein noted, referring to how the atomic bomb turned the sand it blasted into glass, or Trinitite. She believed, like Tony Price, that she was creating “a reconstructive work.”12


Patrick Nagatani shares with Tony Price a mordant sense of wit, as well as passion for raising “public consciousness about the effects of New Mexico’s nuclear industry, which continues to grow despite the damage it has already caused and will continue to bring to the state.” A second-generation Japanese American, he was born thirteen days after the Enola Gay dropped its bomb on Hiroshima (his father’s family lived on the outskirts of the city). Nagatani is a self-described “child of the nuclear age” who turned his childhood obsession with building scale models into a job in

Hollywood painting sets for special effects. When he moved to Albuquerque in 1987, he immediately began to gather information about the nuclear weapons industry, fascinated by the fact that his new (permanent) home contained “the most extensive nuclear weapons research, management, training, and testing facilities and organization in the United States.”13

New Mexico also contained some of the largest and worst nuclear waste “superfund” sites in the nation, many of them on or near Pueblo tribal lands, with devastating health effects on Pueblo peoples over the past four generations. This is a subject that Nagatani would make one of the focal points for his brilliant exhibition and book project, Nuclear Enchantment (1991): “If you are on the right side of a Southwest Airlines 737 heading west [from Albuquerque] and look out . . . you see beautiful white deposits below. . . . I have to laugh to myself when I hear people around me admiring these ‘natural’ formations. They’re uranium tailing deposits, acres and acres of them. They’re all hot, they’re all radioactive.”14 Nagatani was describing the Laguna Pueblo village of Paguate, where the Jackpile Uranium Mine operated during the 1950s and 1960s, blowing the earth wide open, swallowing up entire parts of the village, destroying sacred sites, and leaving huge piles of tailings 200 feet from the village’s present site.

In his staged photograph, Japanese Children’s Day Carp Banners, Paguate Village, Jackpile Mine Uranium Tailings, Laguna Pueblo Reservation, New Mexico (1990), Nagatani brings together the carp banners that are a part of Children’s Day, an annual celebration of life in Japan, with the symbolism of the fish as Christ, in a “Trinity” of figures that overlay Laguna cemetery. Nagatani had discovered an essay by Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko, whose 1977 fictional masterpiece, Ceremony, deals with the birth of the nuclear age. Silko had written: “Destruction of any part of the Earth does immediate harm to all living things,” a fundamental tenet of Pueblo culture that has continuing resonance.15 Nagatani also makes children (his own, in fact) the center of Radium Springs. Out with their parents (Nagatani and his wife) on a lovely summer’s day, they encounter “a lurid green pool,” which leaves its deadly marks on his oldest son’s torso.

All of Nagatani’s photographs are constructed out of superimposed images: “real” photographs that he has doctored, often with harsh acidic colors; miniature models that he builds for his sets; and friends and family who act out roles that narrate the story. One of his most explosive images is Trinity Site, Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico (1989), which plays with the stereotype of the Japanese tourist and his ever-ready camera. Only here the performance takes on a macabre tone because the Japanese father is posing family members in front of the monument that marks the spot where the first atomic bomb was detonated. To emphasize the absurdity, one of his children is holding a small model of the Enola Gay in his hand.

Perhaps more than any other work in the series, Trinity Site conveys the seeming paradox of the project title, Nuclear Enchantment. Nagatani understands the many ways we have been “ravished” by the power and beauty of the atomic bomb, such that we remain ignorant of the incalculable moral, physical, and political costs of the nuclear age it created. Thus the monument, which marks the origin site, reads as nothing more to these tourists than a “must see” place to photograph in order to check it off their “to-do” list.


Judy Chicago was already world renowned as the creator of one of the great twentieth-century masterpieces of feminist art, The Dinner Party (1974–1979), when she moved to Belen, New Mexico, in 1984.  Chicago first engaged with the “mother goddess” of her newly adopted state when she and her husband, Donald Woodman, worked on the Holocaust Project (1993), an eight-year endeavor that took them through Europe on a lengthy trip to Holocaust sites, along with extensive research throughout the US. One of the most compelling themes of this extensive (4,000 square feet), multipart project became the title of one of the strongest pieces in the exhibition. The Banality of Evil: Then and Now (1989) takes its title from a famous quote by Holocaust historian Hannah Arendt. This phrase described Arendt’s confrontation with the ways in which a majority of Germans managed to ignore what was happening to more than six million Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals who were slaughtered in the Nazi death camps.

Chicago and Woodman seamlessly combined their painting and photographic skills to create a diptych that pushes the viewer to see the relationship between then and now: the Nazi officer coming home to relax with his suburban wife and children after a hard day at the crematorium (pictured in the background); a suburban family in Albuquerque enjoying a seemingly innocent “barbecue” in their backyard, while behind them we see missiles, which were stored in the then-largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the US, located in the foothills of the Manzano Mountains for forty years. In See No Evil/Hear No Evil (1989), Chicago and Woodman juxtapose an image of the trains that took victims to the German death camps with an image of the trucks that carry nuclear waste to the (much contested and recently shut down) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and the first atomic bomb blast, with the incineration ovens in the death camps. The Adam and Eve figures on the left and right remind the viewer of our propensity since time immemorial to turn our eyes and ears away from the havoc we wreak on each other and our planet.


Among the third generation of Atomic Artists, Erika Wanenmacher works very much within the tradition of art as shamanic practice, referring to herself as “a culture witch.”16 Her Occult Kali Yantra (1997) represents different aspects of the Hindu goddess Kali, both a creator and destroyer of life. (Yantra is a Sanskrit word for a mystical diagram or amulet that contains occult/magical powers in the Tantric traditions of Indian religions.) Like Tony Price, Wanenmacher mined the Black Hole for found objects; she also shares with Price the belief that she can transform destructive into life-giving energy by drawing on divinities from world religions. In Avanyu Box 1 (2001), Wanenmacher placed tool-knives that she forged from materials burned in the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire, which swept through Los Alamos; it burned about 48,000 acres and came within a few hundred yards of above-ground, canvas-covered nuclear waste sites, where the waste had been improperly stored, to say the least. Drawing on the power of the same image of the Avanyu used by Meridel Rubenstein (here burned onto the top of the box), she lines her interior cover with juxtaposed images of the Trinity Site explosion and the Cerro Grande fire.


The only New Mexico native among the atomic artists so far discussed, Marion C. Martinez is a self-described Indio-Hispanic folk artist, born in Española, New Mexico, and raised in Los Luceros, a small, rural village forty-five miles from Los Alamos. During her college years, she worked at LANL, inserting tapes and punch cards into a computer. Like many of her predecessors, she is a mixed-media artist who uses detritus from the Black Hole at LANL—in her case, computer hardware. But unlike her Euroamerican compatriots, she creates from within a deep history of her own people’s exploitation and racial and ethnic conflicts. Drawing on the rich religious tradition of santo-making among northern New Mexico Hispanos, Martinez creates contemporary religious figures from traditional imagery to comment on the intertwining of scientific research and environmental (and cultural) destruction. Art critic Catherine S. Ramírez notes that Martinez “challenges the nostalgic and romantic visions of New Mexico as the ‘Land of Enchantment,’” and “provides new and complex meanings for Hispana cultural identity and cultural production.”17

In her Santo Niño de Atocha (2001–2002), Martinez borrows a much-beloved image of the Christ child that merges “the sacred and the quotidian, as well as the organic and the inorganic and the low-tech and the high-tech.” Martinez could be speaking for many of the artists in this essay when she describes how the loving act of transforming technological (and nuclear) detritus into art can be understood as a religious experience for both artist and viewer: “Even a discarded circuit board is ‘pure God energy, it’s spiritual energy’ because of its beauty, order, and symmetry. When she . . . cleans, sands, buffs, and polishes it, then shapes it into a gleaming bulto of the Christ child . . . she believes that she transfers her ‘essence and spirit’ to the object,” infusing “what others might see as a cold, sterile thing or ugly piece of junk with life and meaning. This process of labor, of transference and transformation, she explained, is precisely what makes her work ‘spiritual.’”


In the twenty-first century, artists have continued to be compelled by the awe-ful historic moment when the detonation of the first atomic bomb split the past from the future, with consequences for human life that we have too often buried and obscured, but that are still affecting us, and that we are still in the process of recovering. That the arts of “nuclear (dis)enchantment” may provide some redemption (at least in terms of enlightenment) for the havoc we have wreaked on ourselves, one another, and our planet has been a profoundly motivating factor of such world-renowned productions as John Adams and Peter Sellars’s opera Dr. Atomic (2008). It has also inspired less well-known but very moving homegrown works of art, like the modern dance Gamma, which was choreographed by Adam McKinney, director of the dance program at the New Mexico School for the Arts, and his students, and performed for the first time at the school’s gala fundraiser in May 2014 at Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center.

McKinney told me that he wanted to create a contemporary ballet about one of the defining historic moments in New Mexico history, because he felt strongly that his students needed to learn this history, not just intellectually, but viscerally, with their bodies. I offered to participate as a historical consultant and spent an afternoon with the students, talking about the impact of the bomb on the Japanese, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on New Mexico populations (continuing to the present). We looked at clips from The Forgotten Bomb, a 2010 documentary about the impact of the bomb on the Japanese, and I talked about the impact of the bomb on popular culture, including the federal government’s use of mass media to “sell” the safety of atomic warfare to the American public, and the deluge of popular rock & roll songs that were aired on radio, making radioactivity seem incredibly cool and sexy—e.g., “Radioactive Mama, treat me right / Radioactive Mama, we’ll reach critical mass tonight” (Sheldon Allman, 1960). I also showed them images by Cady Wells and Patrick Nagatani.

Then we engaged in a training by teachers of Butoh, a form of Japanese dance theater that emerged out of the atomic bomb experience in Japan, engaging the power of slow movement as a tool for growth and resistance. Students were asked to begin their practice by taking positions on the floor where they were to imagine they existed before life, and then find their way (individually) into life-giving movement. The dance was created in two parts. The first, enhanced by a mesmerizing video of abstract images of birds and bombs, set to Japanese flute music, engaged with the impact of the bomb on the Japanese. We see students engaging body, emotions, and intellect, in McKinney’s words, “[to] adapt to the histories of war and trauma” using “the physical experience of dance to analyze nuclear war, as it exists internally and on the bodies of those directly affected.”

The second part of the ballet is danced with joyful Lindy Hop abandon to the rock song “Pistol Packin’ Mama” (Al Dexter, 1943), backed by horrific images from the documentary Atomic Café (1986), which used US military film footage of the impact of atomic and hydrogen bombs on various land masses in the US and Pacific islands, like the Marshalls, combined with US government “Duck and Cover” public service ads and commercials touting the benefits of suburban bomb shelters.

The legacy of the atomic bomb has been intellectually, politically, financially—the US has spent $7 trillion on nuclear weapons since 1945—and psychologically overwhelming. No work of art is commensurate with its impact. And yet, we have seen four generations of artists, many of them working in New Mexico, employing their creative powers in service to transforming death into life. The 2010 final report of the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA) Project sums up a decade of research, surveying the last sixty years of the impact of nuclear waste and other toxic materials on the natural and human environments of the Pajarito Plateau. The report included a poem of witness by Beata Tsosie-Peña of Santa Clara Pueblo, who grew up in the shadow of the bomb and speaks of the redeeming power of art:

Growing Up I Was Disconnected
(Dedicated to Those Working for Justice in Their Communities, With Special Thanks to Tina Cordova)
I wasn’t yet born
The day silver ash rained down for days
And a plume of poison drifted over state lines
Radioactive fallout, on cisterns of drinking water
On crops and livestock, who all miscarried that year
The people were lied to
And went about life as usual
While the truth fled . . .
Even though it was our own citizens who were bombed
Children born into an experimental population
With a cancer rate way higher than the average nation . . .
What kind of poison
Can penetrate the walls of my womb?
What stories were silenced, and why, and from whom? . . .
Let us share the stories anew that have never been told
And release the pain not even a century old . . .
A foundation for our expectations
As we welcome in this time of healing
For the good
Of all future generations


1. J. B. Jackson, A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 17.

2. Lois Rudnick, ed., Cady Wells and Southwestern Modernism (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009), 56.

3. Eugenia Parry Janis, in Nuclear Enchantment, by Eugenia Parry Janis and Patrick Nagatani (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991), 4.

4. Megan Prelinger, in Atomic Surplus, ed. Erin Elder (Santa Fe: Center for Contemporary Art, 20143), 15.

5. Ed Grothus, quoted in Atomic Artist, a 1982 film about Tony Price by Claudia Vianello and Glen Silber.

6. Tony Price, quoted in James Rutherford, Tony Price: Atomic Art (Santa Fe: Museum of Fine Arts, 2002), 13, 14.

7. James Rutherford, in Tony Price, 28.

8. R. Lee O’Neill, quoted in Tony Price, 17.

9. Rubenstein, quoted in Tony Price, 30.

10. Rubenstein, quoted in Tony Price, 31.

11. Rubenstein, Belonging: Los Alamos to Vietnam (Los Angeles: St. Anne’s Press, 2004), 110. See Peggy Pond Church’s biography of Edith Warner, The House at Otowi Bridge (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973).

12. Lucy Lippard, in Rubenstein, Belonging, 108.

13. Parry Janis, in Nuclear Enchantment, 10; Nagatani, in Nuclear Enchantment, 6, quoting William M. Arkin and Richard W. Fieldhouse, Nuclear Battlefields: Global Links in the Arms Race (Pensacola: Ballinger Publishing, 1985).

14. Nagatani, in Nuclear Enchantment, 23–24.

15. Silko, quoted in Nuclear Enchantment, 36.


17. Catherine S. Ramírez, “Deus Ex Machina: Tradition, Technology and the Chicanafuturist Art of Marion C. Martinez,” Aztlan 29, 2 (fall 2004): 55–92.

18. Excerpted with permission. © Beata Tsosie-Peña, 2010, all rights reserved.

Additional Resources

Atomic Platters: Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security.

Judy Chicago. The Holocaust Project: From Darkness to Light. New York: Penguin, 1993 and

“Final Report of the Los Alamos Historical Retrieval and Assessment Project.”

Amy Goodman. “‘A Slow Genocide of the People’: Uranium Mining Leaves Toxic Nuclear Legacy on Indigenous Land.” Democracy Now!

Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, and Pierce Rafferty, directors and producers. Atomic Café. 1982.

Stuart Overbey and Bud Ryan, directors. The Forgotten Bomb: Everything Depends on Remembering. 2012.

Megan Prelanger. Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race, 1957–1962. New York: Blast Books, 2010.

Lois Rudnick. “Under the Skin of New Mexico: The Art of Cady Wells.”

Eric Schlosser. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.

Frank Waters. Masked Gods: Pueblo and Navaho Ceremonialism. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1950.



Thanks to the following people for help on this project: Erin Elder, curator, Center for Contemporary Art; James Hart, president of the board, Friends of Tony Price; and Carmella Padilla, for introducing me to the art of Marion C. Martinez. Additional images are online at


Lois Rudnick is professor emerita of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a resident of Santa Fe. She is the author and editor of numerous articles and books on New Mexico’s artist and writer communities, including Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds and Cady Wells and Southwestern Modernism. Her latest book, The Suppressed Memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan: Sex, Syphilis, and Psychoanalysis in the Making of Modern American Culture, was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2012. She is currently co-curating with MaLin Wilson-Powell a traveling exhibition, Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West, opening at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos in May 2016.