Aug. 15, 1945. Nine days after the U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Toshiko Akamatsu, a 33-year-old artist, arrived in the city to join her husband, Iri Maruki, who had rushed there a few days earlier to check on his family. The air smelled of rotten flesh. The city was a disorienting wreck. In other circumstances, Akamatsu would have sketched her surroundings with fervor, taken notes, tried to remember everything. Not this time.

Three years later, Akamatsu and Maruki, who was also an artist, began producing hundreds of sketches of naked, charred and deformed bodies. They transposed some of their artwork on eight panels spanning seven meters, with Akamatsu first sketching a form, then Maruki filling it with ink. They repeated the process several times until a haunting parade of zombie-like creatures emerged, hanging between life and death. This became “Ghosts,” the first of 15 works produced over three decades that depicted the horrors of the atomic bomb. All are now on permanent view at the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, in Saitama Prefecture.

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