EDE: portrait of Edward Teller

Completed July 1998

"He's a danger to all that is important. I really do think it would have been a better world without Teller"
-- physicist I. I. Rabi, 1973.

A sad and not very good portrait of an unfortunate person, Ede (his first name by birth) Teller has grown up to be one of the world's biggest liabilities. His story is long, his distinguishing features extinguished by his fear-driven and selfish impulses.

One of the brilliant Hungarian physicists to escape Nazi oppression in the 30's (there were so many Hungarians in physics and math they called themselves "the martians"), Teller never escaped the genuine fears of his youth; even before he turned on his mentor Oppenheimer (trading his remaining good-standing amongst physicists for that of the right-wing secrecy/paranoiacs), his reputation was one of intelligence damaged by insecurity and petulance.

Best known as the developer/champion of the fusion ("hydrogen") bomb, he was a huge influence on the world's most destabilizing technologies: the neutron bomb; technical advisor to Reagan on Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI); ICBMs; MIRV ICBMs; the list is long.

He is the Dr. William Haber (the terrible doctor in Ursula K. LeGuin's LATHE OF HEAVEN) of our time; his life parallels Thufir Hawat's (Frank Herbert's DUNE, the mentat kidnapped and coerced into evil); in Ede's case, trapped by his own fears.

He is rendered here in materials befitting his life; water color on lead; ground electron tubes frame and pockmark his face, the whole embalmed in layers and layers of yellowing shellac. The materials used should last 10,000 years, hopefully longer than his effects. On the reverse is a schematic outlining basic ideas and details, rendered in India ink in on old vellum stationary, shellacked in place.

Mixed media (wood, lead, watercolor, ground glass and mica, shellac, vellum, ink), 15"x11.25"x1"; approx. 20 lb.

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