Chlorine was discovered by Sir Humphry Davy in 1810 and was named from the Greek green-yellow. Like many of the elements, the properties of chlorine have been used for both healthful and harmful purposes as represented by the yin yang beads on this piece. Chlorine was used as a chemical weapon in World War I causing severe respiratory damage or death when chlorine gas combined with the moisture in the lungs creating hydrochloric acid. Its use in pesticides like DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethene) caused serious environmental damage, including significant decline of eagles and other raptors due to the thinning of the birds’ egg shells. The poisonous properties of DDT take more than 15 years to break down. I chose to portray an eagle about to nest as I have enjoyed watching eagles on White Earth Lake and throughout the area since they have made the gradual and powerful come back once DDT was banned in the US in 1972. On the positive side, chlorine has provided safe drinking water for over a century and is widely used in manufacturing PVC, polyvinyl chloride pipes for water and waste.


Uranium was discovered in 1841 and is named after the planet Uranus. It is the heaviest of the natural elements and was the first element discovered to be radioactive in 1896. Uranium is best known for use in the atomic bomb and in nuclear reactors, however, I chose to represent this element in one of the earliest uses which was to color glass and ceramic glazes.


As a child, I was always envious of my younger sister’s stellar no cavity record, since she had only had fluoride treated water in her lifetime. I, on the other hand, endured yearly lectures on brushing and flossing and why couldn’t I be like my other sisters. Years later, another sister of mine roomed with a man whose sole purpose in life was to warn people of the dangers of fluoridated water. I would nod politely in response to his breakfast lectures, but secretly I would question how much of his rhetoric was just that, turned off by his obvious obsession with the matter. More recently, however, I traveled to Tanzania, where I witnessed first hand the damage inflicted upon young bones by excess fluorine found naturally in the water. Young patients at the hospital near Arusha would travel many miles with their parents for surgery to straighten their painfully bowed legs and a chance at a normal life.

Excess fluorine can cause anything from mottled teeth to increased risk of fracture, and may be linked to lower IQ’s, as well as increased risk of developing Alzheimers Disease.


Iridium is one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust. An unusually high concentration of iridium in a geologic layer led to the theory that a huge  asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and deposited a thin layer of iridium-rich clay around the globe. This layer now marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods of time.

Multi-colored in its crystalline form, iridium is named after Iris, the Greek Goddess of the Earth and Sky, personified by the rainbow.



The discovery of curium, which along with americium was linked to the Manhattan Project, was leaked on the US radio show Quiz Kids five days before its official presentation at the American Chemical Society meeting in 1945. It is a product of the bombardment of uranium or plutonium and is used in pacemakers and as an energy source on space missions. It is named for the Pierre and Marie Curie, who discovered radium and were known for their work on radioactivity.


When I asked my husband the physicist to describe plutonium, he said, “Plutonium gives birth to many other elements,” which struck me as a rather poetic way to describe something so deadly. Intrigued by the birthing image, I searched for images of birthing and quickly realized that most would be inappropriate for a younger viewing audience. I was, however, struck by the beautiful mandalas I found, and their similarity to circular images portraying the nuclear fission process, and thus the circular image used. Inward stitched arrows portray the fission process, the small arrows pointing outwards represent the energy released, and the flowers around the edge symbolize the 18 elements created through the fission process. By using both blue, which is associated with water and life, and black, which is associated with death, I hope to capture tension between creation and destruction.

Plutonium, Pamela Davis


by Tricia Coulson

TE 52 It was discovered in 1782 by Franz Muller von Reichenstein. The name originated from the Greek word tellus meaning earth.  It is found in certain plants such as garlic and overexposure to tellurium results in garlic breath. This work is pieced with several black and white fabrics, then discharged and over dyed.