Fred Hagstrom, “Paradise Lost”
Artist: Fred Hagstrom (Saint Paul, MN)
Title: Paradise Lost
Medium/technique(s): Silk screen
Edition size: 24
Number of pages: 84
Dimensions, open: 19 ” x 26″ x 1″
Dimensions, closed: 19″ x 13″ x 1″
Paradise Lost is about nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands conducted by the US in the ’40s and ’50s. It focuses on the first two explosions on Bikini Atoll in 1946. The Bikinians were told that testing the bomb was essential to prevent future wars. They had no way of knowing that they would not be able to return to their island, and how greatly their lives would be affected by the tests. Bikini is still deemed unsafe for their return. The tests also exposed large numbers of service members to dangerous levels of radiation – the first of our atomic veterans. Many of these sailors spent much of their lives in treatment for diseases related to their exposure. The people of Bikini are scattered around the Marshall Islands, unable to return home.
Samples of text:
From Bikini Islander: There is nothing in my life that I want more than to go back home to Bikini. The reason I can’t go there is because the Americans tell me there is poison there. I don’t understand this. I am asking America to take us home.
From Operation Crossroads sailor: I don’t recall in our whole time there any words of radioactivity being spoken of … not to us, the crew members. We were never told about radioactive exposure. In fact, we didn’t know what the word was.
Operation Crossroads was the beginning of the nuclear test program, begun on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in July 1946. The fourth and fifth atomic explosions in history were detonated there in the Bikini Lagoon. A target fleet of 95 vessels was placed in the lagoon to test the power of the bombs against traditional navy ships. The Bikini islanders were moved to the island of Rongerik. 40,000 troops took part in the tests under the supervision of the U.S. Navy.