From art about radiation

“Trap Door,” work in progress by Bea Garth, copyright 2018

I am finally beginning a new series about the effects of radiation from Hanford etc. from a personal child-like point of view. Here I am falling through a trap door into the waiting arms of Pluto (God of the Underworld–and of nuclear radiation) with my  cat falling with me at my side.

I am still  planning to put in some shading etc. Otherwise I think this new 2′ x 3′ acrylic painting is close to done.

The pink represents invisible radiation that blanketed the area outside of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation the night of December 2nd and 3rd, 1949 — including where we lived in Walla Walla, Washington. Apparently it rained when it wasn’t “supposed to.” Twice the amount of radiation was released than they had originally planned.  I have read they secretly released between 8000 and 12,000 curies of radioactive iodine–and that this was not the only “green run,” i.e., where green uncured uranium was used at Hanford. The scrubbers for the effluent were turned off at night for 12 hours.  It was part of the Cold War race for nuclear  superiority with Russia.

There was no notification to the locals so none of us knew about any of this, and thus we did not know we needed to protect ourselves. It wasn’t discovered until years later when mention of the “green run” was found inside mountains of paper-work that was given to an enquiring reporter from Spokane (Karen Dorn Steele). The paper-work was supposed to prove Hanford had nothing serious to hide.   As it turned out, it was far more serious than anyone ever thought.

"Trap Door" w.i.p. acrylic painting by Bea Garth, copyright 2018
“Trap Door” w.i.p. acrylic painting by Bea Garth, copyright 2018

Now I realize my recurring dream of falling through a trap door was my child self representing what actually happened.  After being a very healthy baby, at age 4 months (coincident with the Green Run) I suddenly became severely  ill with pneumonia for close to a year.

Eventually I was taken to the hospital and put in isolation to figure out what could be done. I was given special treatment since my parents were  local celebrities for their work as  archaeologists finding and carefully uncovering Fort Walla Walla. I was  taken off  gluten, sugar and milk fat, plus  given gamma globulin for my “failure to thrive.” Fortunately I bounced back! Much later I learned that some of the Chernobyl victims were also given gamma globulin and often special diets. Like me, they got better.

It makes me sad to think of all the other babies who could have been helped like me, but weren’t. Quite a few ended up in the cemetery.  Babies are a lot more sensitive to radiation than anyone else.  Clearly we need a new paradigm where the health of the Earth and those who live on it needs to come first rather than continuing a focus on an  insane arms race that forgets we all live together on a fragile planet.

This makes me think of the continuing problems at Fukishima and, similar to Hanford, how real news coming from there is largely suppressed. And the very real threat of bringing back the Cold War–or a hot one, possibly started in the Middle East ,rather than focus on how we can restore our ailing planet.

Meanwhile, here in Washington at the Hanford site, problems with the clean-up  continues to be a sore point.  The numerous open radiation pits, leaking cannisters and the fact spent fuel rods are stored just 400 feet from the Columbia River,  leaves us  open for trouble.  I wish it would all just go away, but it looks like Hanford’s old demons will stay with us for some time.





“Hanford Experiment” commentary and painting by Bea Garth

I believe I have mostly completed this painting. It was just like that! 2 days. Though  I should probably fiddle with it a little. It just came pouring out of me. I was obsessed, reading all these new and old documents about the Hanford radiation experiments and watching videos about it.  There is more in me to do on this subject, to be certain.

“Hanford Radiation Experiment” acrylic on canvas by Bea Garth, copyright 2016

In truth, I  first started this painting  some years ago — the same day the reactors at Fukishima experienced severe problems in Japan in March 2011 as a result of a record breaking tsunami.  I must have known it in my bones before I consciously knew the accident actually had happened.

The style in this painting is very different than what I usually employ, and the colors make me think of radiation. I was never able to finish it until now, the 67th anniversary of the Hanford human radiation experiment called the Green Run (which originally occurred on December 2nd and 3rd, 1949). It is personal for me since I was affected as a small infant.

While I was working on the painting yesterday and today, I kept the same large figures and the color scheme that I had originally, although I tweaked the skin and clothes. I added the two babies after seeing the video about  the many young babies who died in Walla, Walla, WA (where I was born)  during the Hanford Green Run experiments era. The babies are all grouped together in the local cemetery. I was in tears.

On my painting, I included typed strips of writing from an article by “A Green Road Journal” and another article created by the governmental ‘Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments’ called: “The Facts and Unknowns of the Green Run” published  Nov. 9, 1994. The typed strips  remind me of the little typed notes my parents and others put on archaeological specimens. I incorporated them in the painting so they seem both like bandages and ghostly, dream-like bits of documents that weave between being clear and obscure.

I figure there must be tons of sick and dead children from radiation more recently in Japan. Not to mention increased illness and death rates in infants along the West Coast of the United States given all the toxic xenon we are getting these days. Ever wonder why there is increased respiratory illnesses here??

So yes, unfortunately, there is a lot of material for me to get inspiration from. I feel like I owe it to all those kids who didn’t survive or aren’t doing so well–since yes small children are more affected by radiation than their elders (although their grandparents don’t tend to do so well either). I am one of the lucky ones despite the fact I got severely ill coincident with the Green Run in 1949  when I was 4 months old.  I was likely sick from both the iodine 131 and the excess xenon (and who knows what else!) since my lungs were severely affected. They have never been quite right since then.

Nevertheless, I was fortunate to have been taken to the hospital and treated with gamma globulin likely laced with iodine (which protects against the radioactive iodine 131), and taken off gluten (which tends to be inflammatory). But many were not so fortunate.  But even as fortunate as I am, I have had to really work hard on my health for years (and still do) to be healthy and whole. I am really glad to have found some remedies that really work for me like dandelion root, barberry, ginger and (taken separately) bentonite slaked by letting sit in water at least 5 hours–as well as a low histamine and gluten free diet.

Of course none of us were fortunate at all to be exposed to so much intense radiation. As I keep reading I have discovered there were several Green Runs, not just one as the government eventually claimed  by mid 1985 (i.e, the one on December 2nd and 3rd, 1949). We are talking about more than 847,000 curies of radioactive iodine that were released into the river over a 3 year period alone–before the Green Run in December 1949 with its 8,000 curies. More was released at intervals up through the 1960’s. Fortunately we moved away by the time I was 3. There were only 24 curies of radioactive iodine that were released in the Three Mile Island accident. And yes no one was told until the mid eighties.

Both Hanford and the nuclear accident at Fukishima are bad situations that keep on giving. The big issue at Hanford now is all the leaking storage tanks the federal government (and its agencies) simply has not had it in its heart to spend money on. From what I have read, they could potentially contaminate the entire region if its not attended to. The health of the Columbia River is at particular risk not to speak of cities downriver like Vancouver and Portland.

And Fukishima, wow. I need to find out more. And plan to. There seems to be a continuing black-out on the situation there. The powers that be and news media overall seem determined to give the impression that nuclear is  safe by not covering the story or paying attention.  This needs to change.

I hope some of my art can help create more awareness of the necessity to deal with and heal this issue wherever it exists.