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.


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


When I hear the word sulphur, I think about its role in homeopathy, where each remedy has certain personality traits and physical symptoms associated with it. A remedy is prescribed by matching a person’s symptoms and traits with the corresponding remedy. Homeopathically, sulphur is associated with persons who are delusional and believe that they are extremely wealthy,yet are extremely lazy and selfish, and irritable and depressed.  Physically, sulphur patients tend to suffer from symptoms involving heat and burning, redness of the skin, and numerous other skin ailments.

Unsure as to how I could portray this in an 11″ square, I chose to go in another direction, this time portraying sulphur as the biblical image of fire and brimstone. Fire and brimstone (possibly an ancient word for sulphur) frequently appear in the Old and New Testaments as a sign of God’s wrath, and also refers to a style of preaching used to convert others using fear of damnation.