I have long wondered why traditional advertising has not been well utilized to promote nuclear energy in America. The conclusion that I have come to is that the science, history, and plethora of social issues surrounding nuclear are far too complicated to be summed up in a 30 second commercial or half page ad. This has led me to wonder what can effectively give context to the intricacies and benefits of nuclear in today’s culture and not surprisingly, I realized that Fine Art offers an equally sophisticated solution.
As an art student, I became interested in religious icons, archetypes, and mythology, specifically, the role that art plays in the way that we understand ourselves and our purpose in this world (too much Joseph Campbell!). It is incredible to think of all of the meaning that a simple image can carry and how much it can influence our daily lives. For instance, the Spiral references the golden ratio, the double helix of DNA, change, motion, galaxies, evolution, connectedness. The Cross carries with it thousands of years of history, a cast of hundreds of characters and just as many stories that still inform contemporary issues today. A simple icon really can shift the way we understand the world, give us a sense of direction, and carry volumes of complex information.
So how can the power of the icon be applied to nuclear energy? Well lucky for us there are already a handful of powerful symbols associated with nuclear, although their meanings are not always positive. First, there is the mushroom cloud, while is obvious to pro-nukes that weapons and energy are completely separate endeavors, most American do not have a clear delineation between the two. The fear of nuclear warfare, I believe, is a major contributing factor to the lack of support for nuclear energy. So, in developing new imagery, we try to use clean simple lines and bright colors to represent nuclear energy, in sharp contrast to the billowing gray mushroom cloud image.
My favorite, the Cooling Tower, is another powerful icon. This one is funny because not only do some coal plants also use cooling towers, but many nuclear plants use other cooling methods than towers. For whatever reason, the cooling tower has stuck (I blame it on The Simpsons but that is a whole other post). Not only are we utilizing the cooling tower image in our design work, but eventually we hope to physically transform a cooling tower into a new icon by staining it with a fun new design. People, especially Americans like things to be big, and physically creating an icon in this way assures it will be reproduced in pictures, TV, online, etc. A project of this scale is venturing into the realm of the Statue of Liberty or Eiffel Tower, which is a sure fire way to bring positive attention to nuclear energy.