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Bomb Art ‘Terrifies, Angers’ Viewers, Artist Says

January 7, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ A 35,000-piece miniature replica of the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal has ″terrified and angered about 70 percent″ of its viewers, the artist said as she set up the exhibit Tuesday at the Museum of Science.

″This is not an anti-nuclear protest,″ said Barbara Donachy. ″It’s a factual display, so it’s reached people that other protests have not.″

When the exhibit, titled ″Amber Waves of Grain,″ is completely erected Friday, small ceramic submarines, B-52 bombers, missiles and warheads will cover the floor and hang from the ceiling of the museum’s spacious two-story lower lobby.

The off-white, rose and light brown clay models range in size from a 4- inch-tall bomb to a 4-foot-long Trident submarine.

″Wow, I thought we only had 100 bombs,″ said 11-year-old Ari Kalogeropoulou s as he surveyed the display with his elementary school class from the Boston suburb of Somerville. ″It’s good to have something like this so people know.″

Ms. Donachy, 37, created the project with her husband, Andy Bardwell, and said the show was designed to present an unbiased, educational look at America’s weapon power.

″I don’t think of myself as an activist,″ said Ms. Donachy, the mother of a 1-year-old daughter. ″I’m an artist and a concerned member of the human race who wants to see it continued for a while more.″

From a distance, the small warhead models look like a field of swaying wheat.

″I wanted it to be beautiful so people wouldn’t be turned off by it,″ she said. ″We’ve forgotten it’s OK to talk about things like this and question them. I think the project is really sort of patriotic.″

The exhibit first appeared in New York in late 1983, and then traveled to Aurora, Colo., Germany and Washington. It will be shown in Rockford, Ill., in April.

The exhibit has ″terrified and angered about 70 percent″ of its viewers, the Denver artist said.

″About 10 percent have told me it makes them feel very secure and good that we have this many weapons. They feel safe,″ she added. ″The rest feel ambivalent.

″I noticed in Europe, people were angry. They know how many nuclear weapons America has. In the United States, people tend to be incredulous. They say, ’Wow, that’s how many we have?‴

On Tuesday, many of the youngsters who watched the artist and several volunteers set up the exhibit appeared disturbed by the display after they learned what it represented.

″At first I thought it was just ceramic spikes,″ said Shane Tresilen, 12. ″When I found out, it made me pretty scared. I didn’t think there were that many missiles. It’s going to kill everyone.″

″We should have peace,″ added Marco Champa, 11, a classmate. ″The Russians are scared, too.″

Ms. Donachy said she and her husband made the ceramic arsenal with $16,000 of their savings. Each piece was made in a plaster cast and fired in a sawdust kiln.

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