The Bombshelltoe Policy x Arts Collective is a creative organization pushing for an active exploration of arts, culture, and history to promote nuclear nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament for the next generation.
We bring nuclear policy experts and artists together to present nuclear-related topics through insightful and beautiful modes of art and narrative. By combining nuclear expertise and artistic expression, Bombshelltoe highlights the humanity in nuclear policy to resonate with people who currently feel disengaged.
Bombshelltoe is a non-profit fiscally sponsored by the Fulcrum Arts EMERGE Program (Pasadena, CA, USA)
Photography and animation credit: Adriel Luis (2016)
Illustration credit: June Mirage (2018) by Lovely Umayam, modified for website
Founder & Creative Producer: Lovely Umayam
I am interested in the ways in which nuclear policy research and activism can overlap with the act of being creative.
The word ‘nuclear’ unleashes predictable, deeply conditioned visions and reactions, most commonly the frightening image of the mushroom cloud, which has now become the universal symbol of atomic destruction. I started Bombshelltoe to offer alternative images and stories that can help expand the emotional reaction to nuclear issues, with the goal of shifting citizen response from fear to inspiration, curiosity, resilience and creation.
Einstein Forum: Escaping Nuclear "Flatland"
For too long, nuclear issues have been reserved for a specific and limited field of expertise, rather than what they truly are: critical to *everyone's* lived experience. I had the honor of speaking at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany to share examples of how my artistic and community practice has deepened how I perceive the relationship between people and the bomb.
Interested in following and supporting Bombshelltoe? Want to think differently about nuclear policy?
Receive updates about projects and get in touch to discuss opportunities to collaborate! All are welcome!
LIFELINES: Experiences of women in nuclear policy during the Covid-19 pandemic
Website, Illustrations, Essays
Lovely Umayam, Gender Champions for Nuclear Policy, Elisa Reverman, Victoria Wu, Anu Damale, Chantell Murphy, Ana Velasco
Lifelines is a collection of personal reflections about the experiences of nuclear policy and technical practitioners during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic (2020 - 2021). Many of these stories come from women in the field who, like everyone else, suffered the immediate physical and mental strain of this crisis: fear of widespread illness and death; the loneliness of lockdown; and the exhaustion from a frenetic lifestyle that collapsed the boundary between personal and professional space. Yet they also wrestle with biases and challenges — as nuclear experts who double as mothers, or junior and mid-careers reckoning with gender barriers reinscribed in virtual, socially-distant work environments — that complicate their vision of a secure future for the world and for themselves.
A Journey Home: Marshallese Youth Reflect on Belonging
2022 – Present
Animated Film, Poetry
Lovely Umayam, Reversing the Trend, Daphne Peter, Marcina Langrine, Joyce Hirose, Neimony Netwan, Trina Marty, Benetick Kabua-Maddison, Catherine Killough
This community poem was written by six Marshallese high school to undergraduate students living in Springdale, Arkansas, created through a series of workshops led by Lovely Umayam in collaboration with Reversing the Trend. It is a reflection on the many meanings of home: as Arkansas, as the Marshall Islands, and as Earth that needs to be protected and cultivated for the next generation. Animated as a short film by Catherine Killough, it has screened in festivals and conferences including the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival and ICAN's Nuclear Ban Week 2022 in Vienna, Austria.
Ways of Knowing: A Navajo Nuclear Histories Project
2017 – Current
VR Film, Photography, Essays, Workshops
Original research and cartography coming soon
VR film for wide release 2021
Lovely Umayam, Adriel Luis, Sunny Dooley, Kayla Briët, Carmille Garcia
From the late 1940s through the 1960s, the United States government mined uranium in large swaths of land belonging to indigenous communities, including Navajo people. Uranium mining during this time contributed to nuclear weapons production and research, but this piece of history is often overlooked and forgotten. Partnering with nuclear experts, artists, and Navajo community members, Ways of Knowing explores the environmental and cultural dimensions of this moment in time, and how this nuclear legacy continue to impact people and land today. The Navajo Nation Screenings of "Ways of Knowing" were featured in the Associated Press Newswire.
Illuminating Radioactivity: Elevating Our Understanding of Radiation
2019 – Current
Website, Educator resources
Lovely Umayam, Karen Hogue, Jennifer Wagner, Tammy Nguyen, Kristyn Karl & Alex Wellerstein (Reinventing Civil Defense), Adriel Luis, Tubik Studios. In partnership with the Stimson Center
The advent of nuclear weapons fundamentally changed our emotional relationship with the term “radiation” irrespective of whether it is naturally-occurring or man- made, dangerous or benign. While nuclear anxieties made it easier to educate the public about radiation protection during the Civil Defense era, fear flattened “radiation” into an abstraction, extinguishing the potential for genuine education – one that evoked a sense of curiosity, wonder, and responsibility. Illuminating Radioactivity offers a fresh approach to nuclear education: history and science literacy through narrative and visual arts. This project invites readers to see the invisible, and unpack our fears. Illuminating Radioactivity was featured as "Site of the Day" by AWWWARDS and "Project of the Year" by Readymag.
Atomic Sublime: An Art book about the Atom, the Sublime, and the American Southwest
2019 - Current
Art book, Bookmaking lectures / workshops (Tammy Nguyen)
Lovely Umayam, Tammy Nguyen (Passenger Pigeon Press), Karen Hogue, Jennifer Wagner, Adriel Luis
An artist book about the landscapes that captivate and haunt us, not only because of their ineffable beauty and scale, but because of the dark nuclear histories they hold. The book centers around two places in the American Southwest—the Grand Canyon and the Nevada Test Site—and the role they played in developing US nuclear weapons. The book is part of the Illuminating Radioactivity project, which blends policy, with technical and creative expertise to produce compelling resources about nuclear science, policy, and history. "Atomic Sublime" was featured at the MoMA-PS1 Printed Matter New York Art Book Fair, MoMA Magazine, MoMA Wendy's Subway temporary Reading Room exhibition, and can also be found in various special collection libraries around the world.
B(L)OOM: The Flora and Fauna of Nuclear Conflict
Art book, Original research, Educator resources
Lovely Umayam, Tammy Nguyen
Most educational materials on nuclear weapons explain history and politics through a linear progression driven by images of conflict and fear. As an alternative, B(L)OOM presents an archive of images and historical narratives about nuclear destruction and regeneration using flora associated with atomic history as the central, unifying theme. It hopes to teach the lesson of resilience: how people rise and rebuild themselves and their communities during and after conflict and catastrophe. Supported by the Wesleyan University Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Debuting at the Printed Matter's Virtual Art Book Fair - February 2021.
An experimental dinner exhibition about the Bandung Conference of 1955 through an Asian- and African-American lens, in an attempt to unpack racism, colonialism, and nuclear war. This event uses Richard Wright’s travelogue, “The Color Curtain” as a central point of reference to examine conflicting and at times contradictory feelings about belonging and displacement. Held 2018 in Washington, DC at the Eaton Hotel, the Color Curtain Project is co-created with Aerica Shimizu-Banks, Adriel Luis, Foreign National, Combing Cotton Co., and Passenger Pigeon Press. Featured on the Brooklyn Rail.
What grows after radioactive contamination? Is it possible or is it futile? It depends on so many factors, which explains why Hiroshima and Nagasaki are currently habitable after being hit by nuclear bombs in 1945, while Chernobyl continues to be too dangerous for its citizens to return after its fateful accident in 1986. This art book includes essay and poetry about the variables that allow for regeneration, and a gigantic sunflower spread. Created for Passenger Pigeon Press: Martha’s Quarterly. All sold out.
Events & Workshops
Meet and learn with Bombshelltoe Collective members about how art and culture enriches and inform nuclear policy. Events are free (unless otherwise noted) and will be held virtually in 2020 and 2021.
Click the following to watch past events or RSVP to upcoming ones.
OCTOBER 22, 2020: ATOMIC TERRAIN
Artist exploration of nuclear weapons history through landscapes and plant life.
ft. Tammy Nguyen and Gabriella Hirst
AUGUST 13, 2020: ILLUMINATING RADIOACTIVITY
Conversation about the different meanings + interpretations of "radiation" in pop-culture, health, and policy.
ft. Alex Wellerstein, Kristyn Karl, Karen Hogue, Jennifer Wagner, Yana Potapovych, Les the DJ
Partnerships & Features
Learn about Bombshelltoe's work with various organizations and institutions.
This is How You Change the World
Panel @ ICAN Paris Forum
Bombshelltoe dismantles the meaning of “deterrence,” and shares how the power of the arts can amplify policy and advocacy at the ICAN Paris Forum held February 14-15, 2020
Taking Nukes to the Silver Screen
Suns Cinema Podcast
Lovely discussed the role of nukes in film with the hosts of this podcast dedicated to Suns Cinema, Washington D.C.'s only arthouse cinema.
Merging Creativity and Policy Analysis
N Square Innovator’s Fellowship
Bombshelltoe founder joins the 2018 - 2019 N Square Innovation Fellowship — a talented group of artists, scientists, technologists, and nuclear policy experts tasked to create multi-disciplinary projects to advance nuclear security.
Reverse the Trend
Bombshelltoe partners with Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, and the Marshallese Educational Initiative to develop creative writing workshops for Marshallese youth as a way to learn about nuclear weapons legacy and environmental justice.
New York and Los Angeles Art Book Fairs
Bombshelltoe projects in collaboration with Passenger Pigeon Press were featured in Printed Matter's New York Art Book Fairs in 2018 (with The Color Curtain Project) and 2019 (with Atomic Sublime), and Atomic Sublime is now part of Printed Matter's official catalog. It will also be featured in the 2020 LA Art Book Fair.
Nukes x Design
Rhode Island School of Design
Bombshelltoe has been collaborating with RISD's industrial design program to work with students to imagine new ways to make nuclear issues accessible. In 2019 Lovely contributed to Design, Culture & Global Security, edited by Tom Weiss and published by RISD and Nsquare.
Note: Lovely's chapter, "Culture as a Driver for Change" is on page 81
We Need to Talk...About the Bomb
Conversation @ the Einstein Forum
Lovely was invited to the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany to speak on how art and aesthetics can deepen our understanding of how humans are affected by nuclear issues.
Centering Traditional Ecological Knowledge
In 2019 we had the distinct honor of partnering with Dr. Perry Charlie's Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) program to present community-feedback screenings for Ways of Knowing at all three Diné College campuses in Tsaile and Tuba City, Arizona, and Shiprock, New Mexico.
Showing Women’s Impact on Nuclear Issues
Foreign Policy Interrupted
With Foreign Policy Interrupted (FPI), Bombshelltoe founder Lovely explained the challenges of being a woman of color in the nuclear security field. Lovely is currently an FPI fellow!
Reshaping Nuclear Narratives
ICAN Paris Forum
Art Influences Community, Culture, and Policy
Nuclear RXNS: Select Writings
Essays on the precarious and wondrous connection among human, atom, and the bomb.
An Essay on Racism and Accountability in the Nuclear Policy Field
Mr. Rogers, nuclear fear, and imagining a post COVID-19 world. Published on Inkstick.
A writer’s journey to stand up against the baddest of the bad: nukes
Bombshelltoe on Instagram
Follow Bombshelltoe’s culture picks — visual art, music, writing — and the surprising ways they relate to nuclear policy issues.