Radioactive Art (Make-Up Event #2)


Written by Ashleigh Cox

A wall of photos in the exhibit!

Krannert Art Museum’s second ArtTalk discussed the way we get rid of nuclear waste. The curator, Lilah Leopold, focused on a few different pieces and explained the intention of the exhibit from the artists’ point of view.

Drawings of radioactive dump-sites in New Mexico and Utah!

There were two drawings in particular that were focused on, shown above. The drawings were made with radioactive charcoal and synthetic uranium but were made in a way that contains the radiation to the canvas. The site on the left doesn’t look that way anymore because it was bulldozed and cemented over to cover up the nuclear waste. The one on the right, called ‘Bear’s Ears’ is a national monument but has been reduced in area.

A photo showing the effects of radiation.

Lilah also talked about a display that begged the question “how would we treat nuclear waste disposal if we were personally responsible?”. The display included a few objects, such as something with radioactive pellets in it. She also talked about a necklace that passed down generations’ worth of radioactive waste.

Photo of the Radium Dial statue in Ottawa, taken from

This exhibit was particularly fascinating to me because the town I’m from has experienced this first-hand. There used to be a Radium Dial factory in Ottawa, Illinois, and many young girls worked there painting the faces of the watches with radium. They were encouraged to lick the paintbrushes to keep the tips sharp and the faces neat. This also meant they were consuming radium daily for years. Many women grew sick to the point that their bones were disintegrating in their jaws. It didn’t end until a group of girls came forward and sued the company. In 2006, the statue above was erected to commemorate what these girls went through. There are a book and a movie about this tragic story as well.

I am really enjoying the ArtTalk series, and I am looking forward to the next one!

A book I received for free at the event!

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