Tony Price / Atomic Art
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LIFE Magazine - March, 1989 






Nuclear Crucifix

A Heavy Metal Message -
Scraps from atomic weapons are used to make antinuclear sculptures
LIFE Magazine - March, 1989 
Photography by: Peter Menzel
Article By: John Neary

  Near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, eerie robots loom out of the pinon and juniper scrub. They suggest icons of the world's religions - Buddhist, Christian and American Indian - and they have titles like Hopi Nuclear Mudhead No.1 and Pontius Pilot Award for Washing Hands of Nuclear Situation. Grim humor is reflected not only in the names of these sculptures but also in the recycled materials Tony Price uses to create his works of art: The gleaming machined parts come from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which does defense work and in 1945 produced the first atomic weapon.
     In that year Price, the son of a Brooklyn stockbroker, was eight, and he began preparing for Armageddon. "The minute the bomb was introduced, a huge cloud was cast over the world," he says. "We've been living as nuclear hostages ever since." After being expelled from a prep school, Price joined the Marines. In the service he began painting murals and protraits. Afet discharge he wroked as an illustrator in New York before moving west. There in 1965 a friend showed him some pieces of test tube bottles found inthe Los Alamos salvage heaps, where a scrap auction is held weekly.
     Price went to see for himself and found wha the calls "a perfect mountain of art," piles of brass, stainless steel, aluminum, plastic and bits of electronics thrown away by scientists and technicians. Inspired by the aesthtic quality of this atomic junk pile, he bought some pieces and began to fuse them - his own way to beat swrds into plowshares.
     Price works slowly, sometimes taking a year to find just the right juxtaposition of pieces. He welds, glues, drills and bolts until he has the effigy that seems most evocative. The pieces have an ominous beauty that has persuaded such notables as musician James Taylor, fashoin designer Diane von Furstenberg and Hollywood's Dennis Hopper to pay upwards of $3000 per Price. The work has been shown in New York's Battery park and at several galleries. Tommy Hicks of the Shidoni Gallery in Tesuque, New Mexico, explains, "Price is a very primitive artist using some of the most advanced technology. He's trying to turn out something good from something destructive." Price himself says, "It's a reverse voodoo system. It's my own catharsis of nuclear tension. I hope it turns other people on to an avenue where they can defeat the nuclear program." About 100 of his works are on display at TENGAM at Project Tibet in Santa Fe.
     That the message of his medium is depressing may have a dampening effect on sales. Says Price "We're usually running on the brink." His wife of 11 years, Donna, a painter, teaches karate to help feed Zara, nine, and son Tem, three. Price supplements there income by carving marble and alabaster Indian statues for tourists. He also sells books, tools and other finds in a flea market. Extra monay goes into buying more of the discarded parts at Los Alamos.
     These days when he shops at the plant he takes along a Geiger counter. Although the technological deritus is supposed to have tested for radioactivity before being sold, Price claims that a few years back one of his pieces, called "Atomic Queen," was literally hot stuff.     


The Last Salt Talks:
A Trophy For The Winners Of The Next Nuclear War


Nuclear Kachina turned by sparklers
into a nighttime fireworks display

 


 

THE Magazine - December, 1998

 

 




Artist Tony Price
Reserve, New Mexico

The Atomic Sculpture of Tony Price
THE Magazine - December, 1998 
Photos by: Guy Cross
  

     In 1965 sculptor Tony Price found himself in Los Alamos where production pieces had been made for building atomic weapons were being sold as scrap matrerial. While standing in line to buy some of this historical slavage, Price had a flash: to create icons of the world's religions out of this nuclear scrap with the intention of plugging the two energies - atomic weapons and religion - together. These sculptural pieces would then act as valves. Each sculpture would set up a vibrational tunnel, an energy transference, allowing the two energy systems to become doorways to each other. For 33 years Price has immersed himself in creating a body of work titled Atomic Art that is an alchemical statement of what we as a human beings have had to deal with in the 2oth century.


 


Atomic Artist


A Film by Glenn Silber
& Claudia Vianello

29 minutes / Color / 1983

Aired on PBS - 1983

 

 



 

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For over two decades, sculptor Tony Price has lived near Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atom bomb, to be near the lab's junkyard. Price calls the yard "a mad scientist's scrapheap," filled with huge piles of exotic materials - rare metals, hemispheric bomb casings, even prototypes of new weapons - which provide both the inspiration and source materials for his "atomic art."
For Tony Price these nuclear scraps are the source materials for his sculptures, as well as a catalyst for his art, which can be described as literally "beating swords into plowshares."

"When the desert winds pick up they vibrate the metal sculptures, giving play to Prices 'nuclear chimes.' It is a sound that the film leaves echoing in the air long after the projector has shut off." - Nuclear Times
"An excellent documentary." - San Francisco Chronicle
"This is an excellent program that captures the artist, his work, and the statement he is making." - Bill Howie, Library Journal
"A well made production about a unique artist and his work. For college and public libraries." - Choice
"Nonstridently and aesthetically reflecting one man's unique expression of opposition to the arms race, this production can address programs on contemporary political and humanitarian issues as well as on art appreciation in public libraries, community and religious groups, art museums, and schools." - Booklist

 


 

New York Magazine
August, 1969

Review of Atomic Art Exhibition
Liquid Wedge Gallery