Interviewsand Articles


Paintings of Robin Rome

by Richard Whittaker, Oct 12, 2011



These two little paintings jumped out at me at an exhibit at the Berkeley Art Center. For me, the cloudlike Godzilla (Gozira) figure immediately evoked dire visitations of global climate change. But at 12" x 12" inches, the two paintings charm, and the scale makes them seem harmless. It's as if the threat of climate-induced disasters are off in the distance, as in a children's book. Maybe this allows one to be drawn in. And perhaps it's only later that the thought arises: Fukushima. Weren't those nuclear reactors with their meltdowns producing electricity for Japan? Along with the tsunami, which has done its damage, one can't help think about the radiation leakage, which although invisible, must have been horrendous and remains a serious problem that apparently continues to elude a really satisfactory solution. Unlike the tsunami, the radiation pollution is not a discreet event, the effects of which are now over. The damage it's done, and perhaps will continue to do in various ways, cannot easily be quantified. These will play out over a time scale of decades, if not longer. And its impact will play out along a spectrum both in time and intensity of effect. How long the problem remains, how far its effects reach and what its effects really are will not easily be measured. This is a Gozira in real life, but one that's become yesterday's news, a Gozira that's hard to see.
     It's worth mentioning that this fictional monster first appeared in 1954 just as the first commercial nuclear reactors were being built. But Japan already knew about the Godzilla of nuclear energy.
     In reference to the painting above, by the time this Godzilla is on his way out of town, what kind of situation is going to be left behind? Maybe it will take twenty years to find out, as the cancers and other deleterious effects of radiation poisoning can take a long time to become visible. On the other hand, there's no shortage of ways these little paintings can go to work as metaphors for other things crossing the horizon we can worry about. -rw  
     For twenty years, Robin Rome taught art in the Hayward school system. Last year she was laid off. 

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founder of works & conversations magazine.


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