The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday December 7th


Art professor uses childhood memories to inspire book

Art professor elin o’Hara slavick’s connection to Hiroshima began when she was young.

As a child, she said her parents would take her to the commemoration of the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities.

Now, she is able to turn this event that has been so central to her life into an inspiration for her own art showcased in her new book “After Hiroshima.”

Slavick will be host a reading at the Bull’s Head Bookshop today at 3:30 p.m., where she will discuss the book and her experience at Hiroshima.

After 18 years in the art department at UNC, slavick took this school year off from teaching to focus on her book.

“I want people to really realize what nuclear power and the atomic bomb do, and I want people to make art about important things,” slavick said. “I like art for art’s sake, but it’s not what moves me. I really want people to engage with profound ideas.”

Amy White, a local arts writer and fellow artist, said slavick’s art and the greater world connect in a way that makes a person look for an object’s fragility and vulnerability and view it as an almost human object.

“She has a pacifist and an activist kind of sensibility,” White said. “A sense of what you might call a consciousness that imbues the work she does with a kind of desire to connect viewers with dire global issues.”

It was fate that brought slavick and Hiroshima together.

She said her husband, David Richardson, a professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, was trying to do research in Hiroshima when he brought her there for the summer of 2008.

During that summer, slavick said she photographed A-bombed objects with X-ray films and cyanotypes, which fill the pages of her latest book.

Her book launched at the International Center of Photography in New York in March, a place slavick visits every time she is in the city.

“When I picked up the book, it was more beautiful than I thought,” slavick said.

She was also part of a panel on visual trauma at the Museum of Modern Art PS1 in Long Island City during the visit.

The unusual capitalization of slavick’s name can be confusing, and she said people often inquire about it.

Her name is written elin o’Hara slavick with both her first and last name not formally capitalized.

“My father gave me an e.e. cummings book,” slavick said. “He was one of my favorite poets and I love that he didn’t capitalize his name so I stopped capitalizing my name.”

“For me, it’s just much more visual.”

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