Mary Kavanagh

Mary Kavanagh Mary Kavanagh is a professor in Art Studio and MFA/MMus graduate program chair at the University of Lethbridge, Canada. Combining moving and still images, drawing and installation practices, Kavanagh’s work addresses the vulnerable body in the context of material culture, toxic ecologies and state violence. Since 2005, she has researched and documented activities and ephemera at historic and active nuclear sites in Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, Japan and Canada. Kavanagh has exhibited her work in over 60 solo and group exhibitions, and she is the recipient of numerous awards, grants and international residencies. She holds an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan, an MA from the University of Western Ontario, and a BA from the University of Guelph.

Email: mary.kavanagh@uleth.ca
Web: www.marykavanagh.ca

Trinity, New Mexico
A current, multi-year project, Atomic Tourist: Trinity, explores nuclear anxiety in the post-Cold War era and beyond, through a series of interviews with atomic pilgrims at Trinity, New Mexico, test site of the world’s first atomic bomb detonated on July 16, 1945.

Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR), North Range, Utah
The Utah Test and Training Range is the U.S.’s largest combined restricted land and airspace area. The south area includes the old Wendover Bombing and Gunnery Range, with over a million acres of secured land used since WWII. Also in the south area is Dugway Proving Ground, the Army’s chemical and biological weapons testing area. The north area handles most of the testing activities, conducted out of Edwards Air Force Base. Explosives of over 10 kiloton yield can be detonated here, currently the only facility in the country where such high yield ordnance disposal is permitted. Kavanagh toured the North Range and filmed a sequence of Minute Man Missile Rocket Motors being disposed of according to START treaty agreements.

WWII Wendover Airbase, Utah
During an eight-week artist residency (2010-11) at the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Wendover, Utah, Kavanagh compiled a vast photographic archive of key features and activities in the Great Salt Lake region, resulting in an exhibition, Atomic Suite. She documented architectural remains and military detritus at WWII Wendover Airfield, where the 509th Composite Group trained to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan; contemporary combat training of U.S. Marines deploying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; salt, copper and magnesium mining operations; toxic waste disposal industries; and iconic land art such as Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.

Enola Gay Hangar, WWII Wendover Airbase, Utah
This structure is 200 by 228 feet, the largest hangar on what during WWII was the largest bombing range in the world. The Boeing Superfortress B-29 was a bomber modified for atomic bomb missions and given a unique silver-plate finish. One of these planes was brought to Wendover on July 14th, 1945 where it was stationed for two weeks before being flown to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean. On August 5th Lt. Colonel Paul Tibbets named the airplane after his mother, Enola Gay. The following day he piloted it over Japan and dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Enola Gay Hangar in Wendover, a temporary holding place for the Enola Gay airplane, is a work of emblematic architecture that signifies what some historians call the most important event of the twentieth century, the first deployment of an atomic bomb.

Defence Research and Development Canada, Ottawa
A member of the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP) (2012-13), Kavanagh visited Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) where she filmed the Radiological Analysis and Defence (RAD) group engaged in radiation, biological and chemical detection training. The photographic portraits depict DRDC personnel wearing protective clothing designed by Canadian military scientists. Referencing the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, The Expulsion critiques the utopian promise of technologically constructed havens, the illusion of safety beyond the reach of radiation fall-out.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska
During a live-fly, simulated hijacking, staged across Alaskan and Russian airspace, Kavanagh flew on the “track of interest” as part of Exercise Vigilant Eagle 13, an elaborate trilateral exercise involving the United States, Canada, and Russia. The post-Cold War exercise was designed to coordinate air intercept missions against hijacked civilian aircraft. Four such exercises were held between 2010 and 2013 with future initiatives suspended due to renewed tensions over Russia’s incursions into the Ukraine. Kavanagh’s film project, Track of Interest: Exercise Vigilant Eagle 13, considers the continuing spectre of nuclear war, through a sequence of double images that juxtapose military forces with powerful natural forces of the Alaskan North.

Trinity, New Mexico

Utah Test and Training Range, North Range, Utah

WWII Wendover Airbase, Utah

Enola Gay Hangar, WWII Wendover Airbase, Utah

Defence Research and Development Canada, Ottawa

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska