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Explosive Artist Opens Exhibit of Detonography

SOCORRO, N.M. January 20, 2014 – Evelyn Rosenberg has a special – and explosive – connection to New Mexico Tech since the 1980s.

The Albuquerque-based artist specialized in print-making and paper-casting when she became acquainted with an Israeli explosives expert who was spending his sabbatical in Socorro. Gideon Sivan was looking for a non-military application of explosives and happened upon the concept of using explosives to create artistic works.

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 Evelyn Rosenberg and her assistant Eric Thelander hang a "quilt" at Macey Center in preparation for her lecture and book-signing on Monday, Jan. 27.
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 Evelyn Rosenberg with one of her signature Detonography pieces.
That initial connection lead to a decades-long exploration of the intersection of explosives and artistic works. Now, Rosenberg is hosting her first ever exhibition of the art she calls “Detonography” at Macey Center.

The exhibit officially opens today – Monday, January 20 – in the upper lobby of Macey Center. She will also give a free lecture and book-signing on Monday, January 27. Rosenberg recently published a book, “Detonography: The Explosive Art of Evelyn Rosenberg,” which chronicles her discovery of Detonography, her methods and her art. She will discuss the book, explain her works and answer questions from 6 to 7 p.m., prior to the Performing Arts Series show. With this first-ever large exhibition, Rosenberg will display her personal collection of Detonographic art, with each of the one-of-a-kind pieces available for purchase. Rosenberg will be signing her books, which will be on sale after the January 27 lecture.  The book will later be available at the Tech Bookstore. The exhibit will remain on display at Macey Center through February 27.

Working with the late professor Dr. Per Anders Persson, Rosenberg began experimenting in the late 1980s. She has created all her work at the test range of the Energetic Materials Research Testing Center, or EMRTC, at New Mexico Tech.

“Back then, the explosives technicians all made belt buckles and other small things using explosives,” Rosenberg said. “Gideon was doing little leaves and letters on plates and simple things. I thought it was really fascinating.”

For several years after her initial introduction to Detonography, Rosenberg taught an art history course at Tech. She’d teach in the morning, then experiment with Detonography in the afternoon. Dr. Persson received a grant from the State of New Mexico for non-military uses of explosives.

 “He thought I was a natural for that,” Rosenberg said. “So for my original research, he covered the explosives and technicians trough his grant.

After the initial grant ran out and she moved on to larger murals, the commissioning agency would cover the cost of explosives. Some of her public art pieces take up to a year to plan and execute. The works on display at Macey largely demonstrate her experiments at new techniques. She’d try new things that later were incorporated into larger works. None of the pieces on exhibit were commissioned.

“The explosion is the easy part,” she said. “The time-consuming part is to first make the design and then to make a mold. The book is meant to explain it all in detail. I decided that, if I drop dead tomorrow, no one would know how I did it. I spent too much time learning to do this, so I thought that I should write it all down.”

Over the years, she perfected her methodology: she creates large molds that form murals or 3-D figures. Nearly all of her works have been commissioned as art in public places, including a large mural that adorns the balcony façade in the lower lobby of Macey Center.

 “What I realized right away was that if you didn’t get three-dimensional forms, it wasn’t very interesting,” Rosenberg said. “I was seeing if you could shape metal over molds. When I got that, it was a turning point.”

Her first commission was the mural that hangs in Macey Center, which depicts an “Evolutionary Geoscape.”

“I had never made anything larger than six inches square,” she said. “That piece pushed me to expand and try bigger and more innovative things.”

She has created public works for more than 40 locations around the country, including the Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque. After more than 20 years of experimenting, she’s not only decided that she wants to show her work – but she’s also ready to sell pieces from her private collection.

She has gained a degree of international renowned for her works. She has appeared on the Today Show, Nova and a news program on Chinese television. Since the book was first published by UNM Press, Rosenberg has done several book-signings in Tucson, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but this is her first event that will include an exhibition.

“I’ve always wanted to do a real show,” she said. “Over the years, as I’ve been doing big pieces, I’ve also been doing smaller pieces, private pieces. So, I have enough to do a real show.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech