Scared Little Boy was created for BEquniox 2019, a regional Burning Man event near Los Angeles. It is a 6-foot interlocking laser-cut acrylic sculpture lit by 1024 LEDs driven by a custom repurposed control panel.
The work reproduces the form of Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. (Little Boy was the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.) It is laser-etched with the image of a fetus in utero and a large oak tree. The work examines childhood innocence, mutual destruction, and the possibility of regeneration. What happens when a boy doesn’t learn to process his anger, fear, and sadness? What if he has the nuclear codes? What can grow when the slate is wiped clean by tragedy? These questions run to the heart of my artistic purpose: to challenge notions of “good” and “evil”; to examine the nature of trauma and healing; to highlight the mutual humanity we share with our “enemies”.
This was my first artwork incorporating laser-cut elements, which presented new and exciting technical challenges. The precision available in laser cutting and etching allows for the tolerances that make this work possible: without it, the piece would fall apart. Interlocking slots must be wide enough to accommodate a mating acrylic piece while narrow enough to ensure a friction-fit. The design must also be precise and correct: the raw acrylic sheets are expensive, and once a piece has been cut it cannot be corrected. Moreover, a correct design cannot be confirmed until the entire structure (18 pieces) is assembled. I produced several small-scale prototypes and test designs before fabricating the final work.