Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.
Bio: Cara Despain, 39, Miami and Salt Lake City (@caradespain)
Title of work: and the desert shall blossom as the rose.
Where to see it: “Specter” at The Bass Museum (2100 Collins Ave, Miami Beach) until Sept. 18.
Three words to describe it: Radiant infinity mirror.
What was on your mind at the time: Cactus blossoms, atomic bomb test shapes, film frames, and the more personal family legacy of Downwinders from nuclear testing and uranium mining in my home region. This piece in particular feels like a portal—the objects feel like haunted fragile artifacts from an era shrouded in silence.
An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The antique glass used in this piece is colored with uranium oxide, which fluoresces in UV light—this is why the pieces inside the infinity mirror box glow an eerie green. Prior to the Manhattan Project, uranium didn’t have many industrial uses. In 1942, however, after the discovery of fission and the onset of the Manhattan Project all domestic uses of uranium in the US were forbidden so the government could use every last spec for nuclear weapons development.
How it reflects your practice as a whole: I use cinematic aesthetics to couch obscured history in beautiful or familiar images. I hope that the intriguing and pretty elements of this work allure people, and then open the door for the deeper and darker meanings they contain.
One song that captures its essence: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on Theremin Ameriqué: The American Songbook by Armen Ra
(Image: Cara Despain, and the desert shall blossom as the rose, 2022. Photography by Zaire Aranguren, courtesy of The Bass.)