The threat of nuclear weapons has been a subject explored by artists ever since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Arguably, nothing else has had as profound a cultural and ecological impact as the emergence of the atomic age.

It is this thread that ties together BOMBHEAD, a thematic exhibition organized by art historian John O’Brian and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery. It is open to audiences at the Kelowna Art Gallery until July.

The exhibition takes its intriguing title from a photomontage of the same name by the American artist Bruce Conner. BOMBHEAD brings together a diverse selection of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photographs, film, and atomic ephemera. The works cover the pre- and post-war period, ranging from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and extending to the more recent nuclear disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in 2011.

Baker Day atomic bomb, Bikini, July 24, 1946 (detail), silver gelatin print. Collection of John O’Brian: Promised Gift to the National Gallery of Canada.

“This exhibition is provocative and challenging,” says Nataley Nagy, executive director of the Kelowna Art Gallery. “Throughout history visual art has played a critical role in creating a dialogue around some of the most frightening and complicated issues facing humankind. Through their work, artists can provide a way to distill complex issues into something that can be communicated and ultimately bring us together, rather than tear us apart. BOMBHEAD does so in a powerful way.”

The exhibition is divided into four thematic categories for visitors to explore: The Bomb, Protest, Documents, and Fear. It showcases the work of 28 artists, notably including, Carl Beam, Betty Goodwin, David Hockney, Ishiuchi Miyako, Robert Rauschenberg, and Nancy Spero, among many others.

BOMBHEAD runs from until July 18, 2021. It is presented with the generous support of IG Wealth Management.

The Kelowna Art Gallery is located at 1315 Water Street. For more information, visit or call the Gallery at 250-762-2226.