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Art With A Bang: The Work of Evelyn Rosenberg

on September 3, 2014 - 11:10am
'Quilt with Fringe,' a metal sculpture by Evelyn Rosenberg, is one of the detonographs on display at Mesa Public Library. Courtesy photo
Cover of 'Detonography: The Explosive Art of Evelyn Rosenberg.' Courtesy photo
Los Alamos Daily Post

The explosive art of Evelyn Rosenberg is on display through Sept. 30 in the Upstairs Gallery at Mesa Public Library.

There will be a reception and Authors Speak talk by Rosenberg 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, where she will sign copies of her book, “Detonography: The Explosive Art of Evelyn Rosenberg.”  

Rosenberg explained that she wrote the book because she wanted the technique to be documented and to continue after she is gone. She uses a unique process she calls “detonography” to create metal sculpture using explosives. Looking at the intricate detail of her work, it’s hard to believe each piece has been blown up, but it’s quite true.

In 1985, Rosenberg met an Israeli explosives engineer working at New Mexico Tech who had the idea of using explosives to create art. He wasn’t an artist, however. The two were introduced, and Rosenberg began refining the process she uses today to create her fantastically detailed metal sculptures.

Each new detonograph begins as the sketch of an idea. Then a plate is prepared using metal foil and often, real objects. In some pieces, vintage textiles add their delicate designs. The design is transferred to a mold and covered with plaster. Then the result is ready to travel to the test range.

The mold is covered with a prepared metal plate then covered with a Data sheet explosive. The explosion forces images of the objects and contours of the mold into the metal plate. Now it’s time for a trip to the car wash to start cleaning up the sculpture. Then it is treated with chemicals and polished to develop colorful patinas.

While creating art with explosives might seem macho, Rosenberg finds the process very feminine.

“It’s like giving birth. It’s messy, chaotic and potentially dangerous, but you get a beautiful delicate result,” she said.

Her current technique grew out of Rosenberg’s work as a print maker. After earning a master’s degree in lithography at the University of New Mexico, she taught at Haifa University in Israel where there was no lithography equipment, only an etching press. She often found the metal plates were more interesting than the prints made from them.

“I love the sheen of metal,” she said.

Rosenberg has used detonography to create 40 large public art pieces. She’s recently submitted a design for the public art to be placed in front of the Municipal Building in Los Alamos. Citizens will be voting on the designs at an event Sept. 11.

Large or small, Rosenberg’s detongraphs explore the ideas of human interaction with the natural world and of transformation. Like the universe itself, her pieces are born in fire and chaos to emerge as something beautiful.

'Scale of Justice' is a large public piece designed by Evelyn Rosenberg for the Justice Center in Albuquerque. Courtesy photo