Helldorado Days is a video installation that examines the theatre of atomic testing in 1950s Las Vegas through the lens of the artist’s family history. Post WWII Las Vegas flourished: high rise hotel casinos rose from the desert, miles of suburban tract housing was developed to hold the growing middle class, and tourist markets were booming as the U.S. government found a way to cast atomic testing as spectacle. It became a ritual for the artist’s grandfather, an amateur photographer, to pack the family in the car, pre-dawn and drive out to the rim of the mountains opposite Nellis Airforce Base to watch the mushroom clouds billow.
The exhibition takes its name from the annual festival held in Las Vegas. Through most of the mid 20th century, Helldorado Days were a celebration of the spirit of the quickly civilizing “Wild West.” Old family slides of atomic tests and the Helldorado Days parade are paired with artist rendered fly-over footage of imagined test zone sites, drawing out the elements of fantasy, fiction and fabrication involved in the public’s understanding of nuclear technology and its long and short term effects.