Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land explored the impact of uranium mining on Navajo lands and people. The art exhibition featured work by twenty local and regional artists, including Navajo and non-Native artists. The show opened with a Preview Night for Arts Council members on Saturday, August 12, 6-8pm (see photos from the Preview here). Hope and Trauma showed August 15 – October 28, 2017.

Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land, photo by Tom Alexander

Through the participating artists, Hope and Trauma shared stories and perspectives from Navajo people of their experiences due to radiation-related impacts to their bodies, their land, their water, their animals, and the natural materials and objects they use in their everyday lives. Art work was based on a series of interactions, shared stories, and educational programs that took place in Cameron, Arizona, and in Flagstaff, in October 2016. Artists attended the four-day intensive education program which immersed them in the landscape where uranium mining and contamination has occurred on the Navajo Nation. They learned from Navajo community members, scientists, health care professionals, mental health professionals, and other experts about the impacts of uranium mining.

Artwork in the exhibition included sculpture, painting, photography, installation art, textiles, film, virtual reality film, poetry, and performance. The participating artists were: Jeremy Singer, Venaya Yazzie, Helen Padilla, Anna Tsouhlarakis, Kim Hahn, Jane Lilly Benale, Esther Belin, Klee Benally, Mark Neumann, Elisa Rosales, Rebekah Nordstrom, Elbert Dayzie, Jocelyne Champagne Shiner, Jerrel Singer, Edie Dillon, Frederica Hall, Chip Thomas, Anne Collier, Malcolm Benally, Amy Martin, Pash Galbavy, Milton Tso, Debra Edgerton, and the Death Convention Singers.

This blockbuster exhibition was funded in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

> Purchase the catalog for Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land by calling (928) 779-2300. The catalog features full color photographs of all artwork in the exhibition in addition to curatorial statement, artists’ statements, foreword, and educational displays.

From 1944 to 1986, nearly 20 million tons of uranium was extracted from Navajo lands. At the time, Navajo miners and residents were not informed of the health impacts of working in the mines, or of the impact on their lands. Many Navajo people have died of kidney failure and cancer from conditions linked to uranium contamination. Research from the CDC shows uranium in babies born now.

More than one thousand abandoned uranium mines are located on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Hundreds are located within fifty miles of Flagstaff near and in Cameron, Arizona. The federal government recently agreed to commit over $1 billion to clean up 94 abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation. The estimated cost to clean up all abandoned mines is likely too large to calculate.

Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land is a partnership between the Cameron Chapter House of the Navajo Nation, the Flagstaff Arts Council, University of New Mexico Community Environmental Health Program, and Northern Arizona University.

Project partners followed the established model for art exhibitions that began with Fires of Change. That exhibition also featured a week-long training for participating artists that covered forest and fire ecology, giving artists education insight into the increase in size and frequency of wildfires in the American southwest, with a focus on Northern Arizona. This process ensures that participating artists are educated and informed about the complex issue of uranium mining before they created artwork for the exhibition.

Read the Arizona Republic’s in-depth story on uranium mining >

Funded in part by a grant from:

Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land is generously supported by:

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