We had the good fortune of connecting with elin o’Hara slavick and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi elin o’Hara, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
The most important thing we did as parents for our two children was to travel with them as much as we normally did before having kids. As babies, toddlers and teenagers, they lived in Hiroshima, Japan, Greifswald, Germany, Lyon and Paris, France. Traveling has made them open-minded citizens of the world with full beautiful hearts and empathetic souls. They love all kinds of food, culture, art and landscapes and are able to easily adapt to new and challenging situations. They are seriously interested and active in what is happening in the world. My mother is from Germany and my parents instilled in me a love of travel and social justice. My partner and I carry on that tradition and I hope our kids do too!

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a conceptual Photographer. I usually start each new project with an idea for which I find a topical and unique form. One of my recent projects – There Have Been 528 Atmospheric Above-Ground Nuclear Tests to Date – came about during a 16-week Huntington Fellowship at Caltech. I was there to do research in the archives about all things nuclear related and I found a lot: Caltech produced over one million missiles during WWII; several Caltech scientists worked on the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb; the detonators for Little Boy and Fat Man – the A-Bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – were developed at Caltech. Having produced a monograph, After Hiroshima, several years earlier, that focused on the 60 trees that survived the A-Bomb in Hiroshima and some of the 90,000 artifacts in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum Archive, I remain committed to making visible the links between nuclear power and weapons, war and loss, radiation and dangerous exposure, history and survival. While working in one of the abandoned basement darkrooms at Caltech, where many boxes of photographic paper were left – some perfect, some fogged – I decided to paint 528 nuclear tests on the fogged paper. Using developer and fixer, I painted 528 nuclear tests and exhibited them all in a solo show, Dark Archive, at the Colorado Contemporary Art Gallery in the fall, 2022. I will exhibit them all again at Cerritos College in Norwalk, CA in October, 2023. They are at the core of my in-progress book project, Dark Archive. I never would have arrived at this dynamic formal resolution without decades of research and serious play in the darkroom, archives, books, in the field (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima), and staying open to accidents, chance and synchronicities. We can not change history but we can certainly make it. There is no such thing as failure, only research.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would first take them on a long walk with my dog in Irvine, through my beautiful neighborhood of University Hills (faculty housing for UCI, where I am an Artist-in-Residence) that includes a huge eco-preserve and numerous parks. We would walk on the Crystal Cove beaches and eat at the Laguna Hotel, Carmelitas and the Beachcomber – all in Laguna Beach. I would take them to Pasadena to see the extraordinarily beautiful Caltech campus and to see art at the Armory Center for the Arts. We would wander the antique stores and have tacos and the best churros at the Taco Stand in Orange. I would take them to the new Orange County Museum of Art to see some delightful contemporary art and I would not them leave without a trip into LA where we could do a wide range of fun things – vintage shopping in Echo Park, enjoying the Griffith Observatory’s camera obscura and breathtaking views, biking through Rustic Canyon, eating at Guisados, seeing incredible art at LACMA, the Hammer, the Getty, the Broad, and many thriving galleries, and hanging out at my friend’s house in Silverlake.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Several professors have had a profound influence on me as an artist and educator. Poets Tom Lux, Jane Cooper and Jina Valentine, with whom I studied poetry at Sarah Lawrence College, all taught me the power of language and the importance of poets. Joel Sternfeld, my photography professor at Sarah Lawrence and my friend, helped me to believe in myself as I am – a hyperactive photographer, disciplined artist who tries to recreate the wheel all the time, and a dedicated humanist. He introduced me to the practice of critical spontaneity. James Elkins, my professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, continues to teach me so much and generously wrote the essay in my monograph, After Hiroshima. Of course, my parents hugely influenced me by taking me and my 6 siblings to countless churches and museums, political protests and educational events. Three of my sisters are artists and being the youngest, they have been immeasurable inspirations. Last, but not least, my students at UNC, Chapel Hill, over the 27 years I taught there, continue to influence me every day.

Website: http://www.elinoharaslavick.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elinohara/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artemesia.plath/

Image Credits
All images by elin o’Hara slavick

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