Imagine dozens of artists using Hanford as their muse and then bringing together a collection of their work. It has been done! The Seattle based chapter, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility has created the traveling exhibit, Particles on the Wall to share in one place lenses of artistic response to our nuclear legacy. The exhibit contains paintings, watercolors, 3D installations, poetry, t-shirts, old Geiger counters, and more. The exhibit is at the Odegaard Library at the University of Washington.
A group of over 40 people gathered for the opening reception on January 26th for poetry readings, art sharing, and refreshments. Many people in attendance had grown up in the Tri-Cities or had family there and shared stories about running behind trucks that sprayed DDT in their neighborhoods to kill mosquitoes, enjoying the sweet smell of the toxic chemical before Silent Spring was published and sounded a loud alarm nationwide. About the jobs their father’s had that were shrouded in secrecy. About the cancers in their family. The normal, happy childhoods shielded from the horrors of weapons production.
Stories and art provide tethers for making sense of a situation which is beyond imagination. One artist created a piece called 67 leakers showing scaled-down containers resembling underground nuclear waste tanks. Kathleen Flenniken shared a poem about when the full body count machines came to their elementary school and they marched in and lay in the machine that was looking for radioactivity in their bodies, but they didn’t know that.
I am deeply thankful for these artists for wrestling with our nuclear legacy and capturing pieces that lead us to new understandings.
By: Liz Mattson