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This group of paintings, drawings, and prints represent my two-year study of the Hanford Reach. The only free-flowing section of the Columbia River left in the United States, the Hanford Reach runs through the Hanford Site, a Manhattan Project facility that occupies 586 square miles in south-central Washington. Built in 1943, the Hanford Site processed plutonium for nuclear weapons, including the Nagasaki bomb that claimed more than 80,000 lives in Japan; before the last reactor was decommissioned in 1987, the facility also released iodine 131 plumes that has been linked to hundreds of deaths of downwind residents. Hanford’s toxic remains continue to make their way to the Columbia River, contaminating aquatic life and the people who eat it.
I made the prints by combining time-lapse photographs of both the Hanford Reach and the mouth of the Columbia River with layers of text derived from stories told by Nagasaki bombing victims, data regarding the environmental and health effects of nuclear processing at Hanford, and poems by Dylan Thomas and Mary Oliver. The paintings were created by laminating digital transparencies, which depict areas near the mouth of the Columbia and at the Hanford reactor sites, between glass and mirror. Each painting includes approximately 20 layers of paint atop the glass, with text applied and carved between the layers.
My intention with this work was to examine a dark moment in history and the ways in which it shaped the place I live, and the people (including myself) who live here. I hope The Things of Light will help others to reflect upon these questions, so as to shape a better future.