A few weeks ago we saw a populist uprising invade one of this culture’s most sacrosanct public institutions out of anger and disillusionment, among other factors; generally a repudiation of what was perceived as a corrupt cabal who ignores the will of the people. Within days the news was full of stories of the State tracking down and cracking down on the dangerous insurgents and tracing their words and actions. Alliances were suddenly severed, fingers were wildly pointed, threats were issued, straw men swiftly collapsed. An historic quake, the tremulous ground is still shifting.
We’re don’t intend to oversimplify here, but you have to admit there appear to be parallels in these stories.
In the end, we see the ripples through street art. Actually, sometimes we see the antecedents to events like these as well – but we may not recognize them as such until later. One cryptic prophet and cultural critic from the street art world, Don Leicht, passed away this week after a very trying illness. His original use of the digitalized Invader predates the high profile street artist of the same name; his comic/cutting assessments of modern hypocrisy echoed across walls of New York as early as the inception of the video game itself. A long time trusted friend and creative collaborator with street artist John Fekner, Leicht was quickly memorialized with this new installation on the street (below).
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring 1UP Crew, Bastard Bot, Below Key, CRKSHNK, De Grupo, Don Leicht, Duke A. Barnstable, Ethan Minsker, Freedom, John Fekner, Maks Art World, Nick Walker, No Sleep, and Young Samo.
Reposted from John Fekner:
“Don Leicht (October 12th, 1946-January 22nd, 2021)Don was my fierce older Libra brother, colleague and collaborator throughout almost fifty years of friendship. Don was a passionate and devout painter who played by his own Bronx cool rules; whether as a teacher in the public school system in the South Bronx, or in his hand-written personal writings or hand-cut metal, plastic or cardboard sculptural works, all visually charged with a deep meaning and social purpose. His imagery could spark a laugh or a smile; but were intended to cause a reaction within a viewer’s heart, mind and soul.
Don was a steadfast bridge to carry me through my sometimes unwieldy behavior. He would provide answers with care, understanding and positivity; whether it was in person or through a 10-minute or hour phone call. Within our conversation (and with many of his friends), he would always repeat the message as to be sure that you ‘got the message’ and would act accordingly. Don always had a simple soothing solution: ‘Get one thing done by the end of the day.’
Don was preceded in death by his wife Annie; and he will be deeply missed by his two sons, Anthony and Nicky, who helped their father throughout his overwhelming health issues, especially in this past year.
Walk on dear friend. We celebrate your life work!”
This spill and these events did not happen in San Diego, or Palm Beach. The story doesn’t affect wealthy white families and cannot be used to sell shampoo or real estate. That’s probably why we don’t see it in the press and never on the talking-head news. Street Artist Jetsonorama is not only a photographer who has been wheat-pasting his stunning images of people and nature on desert buildings for over a decade, he is also a doctor on the Navajo reservation, a human-rights activist, andan erudite scholar of American history as it pertains to the poisoning of this land and these people. Today we’re pleased to bring you this long-form examination from Jetsonorama’s perspective on a complicated and tragic US story of environmental poisoning and blight that affects generations of native peoples, miners, military personnel, and everyday people – and has no end in sight.
Most alarming is the news that current White House administration is endeavoring to mine uranium here again.
Stories from Ground Zero
Text by Jetsonorama
July 16, 1945 was an auspicious day in the history of
humankind and the planet as the US Army’s Manhattan Project detonated Trinity,
the first atomic bomb, in Jornada del Muerto, NM. (“Jornada del
Muerto” fittingly translates as “Journey of the Dead Man” or “Working Day of
the Dead.”) July 16 is also the day of one of the worst nuclear
accidents in US history with the Church Rock, NM uranium tailings spill in 1979
on the Navajo nation (occurring 5 months after the nuclear reactor meltdown at
Three Mile Island).
An earthen dam holding uranium tailings and other toxic waste ruptured releasing 1,100 tons of uranium waste and 94 million gallons of radioactive water into the Rio Puerco and through Navajo lands. Sheep in the wash keeled over and died as did crops along the river bank. According to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report the levels of radioactivity in the Rio Puerco near the breached dam were 7000 times that of what is allowed in drinking water.
In an effort to end WWII and to beat the Soviets in developing a hydrogen bomb, uranium mining under the Manhattan Project began on Navajo and Lakota lands in 1944. Two years later management of the program was transferred to the US Atomic Energy Commission. The Navajo nation provided the bulk of the country’s uranium ore for our nuclear arsenal until uranium prices dropped in the mid 80s and is largely responsible for our winning the Cold War.
However, environmental regulation for mining the ore was nonexistent in the period prior to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. During this time uranium mining endangered thousands of Navajo workers in addition to producing contamination that persists in adversely affecting air and water quality and contaminating Navajo lands with over 500 abandoned, unsealed former mine sites.
Private companies hired thousands of Navajo men to work the uranium mines and disregarded recommendations to protect miners and mill workers. In 1950 the U.S. Public Health Service began a human testing experiment on Navajo miners without their informed consent during the federal government’s study of the long-term health effects from radiation poisoning. This study followed the same violation of human rights protocol as the US Public Health Service study on the long-term effects of syphilis on humans by experimenting on non-consenting African American men in what is known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment from 1932 – 1972.
May 1952 the Public Health Service and the Colorado Health Department publish a
paper called “An interim Report of a Health Study of the Uranium Mines and
report noted that levels of radioactive radon gas and radon particles (known as
“radon daughters”), were so high in reservation mines that they recommended
wetting down rocks while drilling to reduce dust which the miners breathed;
giving respirators to the workers; mandating daily showers after a work shift,
frequent changes of clothing, loading rocks into wagons immediately after being
chipped from the wall to decrease time for radon to escape and for miners to
receive pre-employment physicals.
Sadly, the recommendations were ignored.
By 1960 the Public Health Service definitely declared that uranium miners faced an elevated risk of pulmonary cancer. However, it wasn’t until June 10, 1967 that the Secretary of Labor issued a regulation declaring that “…no uranium miner could be exposed to radon levels that would induce a higher risk of cancer than that faced by the general population.” By this time, it was too late. In the 15 years after the uranium boom the cancer death rate among the Diné doubled from the early 1970s to the late 1990s while the overall U.S. cancer death rate declined during this same interval.
As high rates of illness began to occur workers were frequently unsuccessful in court cases seeking compensation. In 1990 Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act which seeks to make compensation available to persons exposed to fallout from nuclear weapons testing and for living uranium miners, mill workers or their survivors who had worked in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona between January 1, 1947 and December 31, 1971. An amendment to this bill is awaiting Congress after its recess that will expand years of coverage from 1971 to the mid 1990s as well as expanding the regions of the US covered.
At the other end of the life spectrum
the Navajo Birth Cohort Study is the first prospective epidemiologic
study of pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in a uranium-exposed
population. The goal of the Navajo Birth Cohort Study (NBCS) is to
better understand the relationship between uranium exposures and birth outcomes
and early developmental delays on the Navajo Nation. It started in
2014 and has funding through 2024.
Efforts to mine uranium adjacent to the
Grand Canyon have accelerated during the Trump administration. The most pressing threat comes from
Canyon Mine located closely to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Because of the plethora of abandoned
mines on the reservation the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining on the
reservation in 2005.
However, it’s possible still to transport ore from off the reservation across the reservation. Approximately 180 miles of the Canyon Mine haul route would cross the Navajo Nation where trucks hauling ore had 2 separate accidents in 1987.
For more information on these and other
uranium related issues at Ground Zero, check:
Street Signals -News Off the Wires from Brooklyn Street Art
Madonna’s Latest Released this Week with new cover artwork by Street Artist Mr. Brainwash (MBW)
Cover art by MBW for a re-packaged collection of songs.
Calling it a collection of music that “changed the world”, McDonna uses the the energy and irony of real world street art splatter to re-face past hits. The 3rd greatest hits collection appropriates street artist MBW’s recent campaign of Andy Warhol “Marilyn”-inspired large pasteups which appeared on New York streets this spring and summer.
A 19 year old image of the performer during the height of her popularity is photoshopped inside the 1967 image of pop artist Andy Warhol’s silkscreened series of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol had appropriated a publicity photo of Monroe for the 1953 movie “Niagara”, revolutionizing the art world by employing a mass-production technique that simultaneously cheapened the image and canonized it.
MBW pieces this spring in New York featured Madonna and Angelina Jolie-like faces inside a Marilyn Monroe hairdo (photo Jaime Rojo)
In his own satiric twist on the modern icons of celebrity culture, the French street artist had similarly placed competitors for the Marilyn throne such as Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie alongside others clearly not in the running such as Larry King and Leonard Nimoy. The large scale of the pieces drove home the comedic effect and simultaneously elevated and parodied the meek contributions of pop fame.
Quick Reader Technology: Deal directly from the gallery on the Streets with your iPhone
Will this knock out the bricks and mortar gallery middleman?
In a development in Street Art that may have ramifications previously unthinkable, some online re-sellers of street art are testing QR two-dimensional codes that can be read by your cell phonte as a way of connecting with your favorite street artist’s work. A two-dimensional bar code (like the one above) is intended to contain information which can be scanned quickly and easily by electronic devices.
Street Art Dealer is one of the first online re-sellers (but not the last) to use QR technology.
Of course this will not stop taggers from going over the little QR code carefully placed on or near your piece, and it may make it easier to track you down by law enforcement if your work is illegal, so no one expects a fool-proof employment of this technology. But imagine going on a gallery-of-the streets tour with your headphones on, listening to an online tour that is triggered by scanning the QR code. Or imagine doing some holiday shopping and never walking into a store.
Using just your phone you could get an artist bio, price list, a GPS map to see more examples at a gallery, order a piece directly… (image Steven P. Harrington)
In London, street artists C6 and Steal From Work have already begun testing the idea. This innovative use of QR code technology was be showcased during an exhibition on the streets of Bristol in July. Read more HERE.