Atomic Art

Castillion Fountain and Metal

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Driving into Salmo BC, a small village picturesquely nestled between mountains and rivers, you’ll notice right away the intricate metal work of Howard Roo, artist and owner of Castilian Fountain and Metal. From the main drag to the local cemetery, Howard’s detailed gates, fences and signs beautifies and enriches the small town atmosphere. Howard also creates pieces that are emotive and meaningful, garnering inspiration from growing up in the Cold War. A regular at local markets and galleries, his impressive collection of work intrigues. Here, we find out more about Castilian Fountain and Metal.

Decorative Iron gate, festooned with flower and bird details.

What is your background and where do you find inspiration for your art?

For almost my entire working life, I have either fixed something or built something. I am a welder/fitter/fabricator by trade. I use a variety of metal, found objects and water to tell my stories and convey my message. I am also a nature lover, artist and nuclear activist.

I remember growing up in the Cold War, duck and cover drills were a regular routine at school. Ominous warning signals frequently sounded off on our old black and white tv. This is only a test reverberated on the airways throughout my childhood. I draw inspiration from nuclear catastrophes that never should have happened. Chernobyl, Fukushima, and especially the Hibakusha, the people, the survivors of those disasters. As these people age and pass away, an effort is being made to keep their stories alive. If these stories are lost to the ravages of time, we risk repeating history and it’s terrible events. My art remembers the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and by remembering the destruction and devastation, maybe we could avoid what some people call the Inevitable Day of Destruction.

Iron Art decorated and stylized with flowers and leaves

What materials do you use in your art?

My main material is steel. I have never put a piece of steel in the land fill and any extra pieces or waste are collected and recycled. I try and use repurposed steel as much as possible, saving them from going to the landfill. Rocks that I use for the fountains are locally sourced river rock. I always insure my work is as environmentally sound as possible and everything that can be recycled is.

Could you describe the construction of one of your pieces?

I don’t use plans, this way I keep each piece an original. I start with something or someone who inspires me. I then see what I want in my head and create a concept. I work out approximately the size and dimensions. Finally, I shape, form and construct the piece, then paint it. I’ll keep redoing a piece until I get it right. Some quotes that inspire me are…”

“Artwork is never finished, only abandoned.”

~ Leonardo De Vinci, Puddles & Rain

There were black clouds, and hard rain, the puddles were yellow and green as if someone had poured paint on it, they were told it was dust from the flowers.

~Voices of Chernobyl

Svetlana Alexievich, My Shattered World

I remembered the line from the Hindu Scripture the Bhagavad Gita…..

I am become Death the destroyer of worlds

~ J Robert Oppenheimer on the explosion of the first atomic bomb near Almorordo, New Mexico

Art can inspire, art can transfix, and art can teach. Howard’s art is a stark reminder of the atrocities of the past. Never before have we been so close to catastrophe, so close to making the same mistakes we did in the Cold War. Political strife and chaos. Countries, ideologies and people are once again divided. The Doomsday Clock now ticks at two minutes to midnight, the Science and Security Board’s Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists state, “The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed.”

Howard’s art reminds us, in an age where the next nuclear catastrophe is just a Tweet away, that humanity is the sum of us, and we have no right to subtract from it. That only by remembering and teaching the failure’s of our past can we reclaim our future, our peace.

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”

Omar Nelson Bradley

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