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A new exhibit on nuclear technology's effects opens at the CCC campus in Wilsonville

COURTESY PHOTO - This is Samantha Marroquin's piece depicting a deserted home and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The works of David Cordes and Samantha Marroquin in their recently opened joint exhibit at Clackamas Community College in Wilsonville are, in a way, an extension of each other.

While Cordes establishes a connection between advances in nuclear technology and the people who created them, Marroquin hopes to continue the thread — connecting the technology with the consequences they could or already have reaped.

"I focus on the individual. Sam tends to focus on the bigger picture and still manages to make connections to local, regional concerns," Cordes said. "This show is in part about nuclear energy but

also nuclear weapons and the problems that come up with that."

The exhibit titled "In the Blink of an Eye" will continue until Dec. 6 at the CCC campus in Wilsonville and will feature a presentation 4-7 p.m. Oct. 3, where the artists will talk about their work. Radio personality Barbara Bernstein, who hosts a weekly environmental program "Locus Focus" on KBOO-FM, will speak at 4:30 p.m.

Cordes was a history teacher but then became an organic chemistry professor at Pacific University. He also developed a painting hobby around the time he switched his expertise.

And through this exhibit, Cordes is blending all three of these pursuits.

Cordes' artwork in the exhibit includes portraits of famous scientists such as Marie Curie, who discovered radium, Robert Oppenheimer, who is sometimes described as the father of the nuclear bomb, and Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Freidrich Strassman, who discovered how to split the atom in Nazi Germany.

In the paintings, Cordes includes symbols and graphics that show the tools they used to uncover their revelations and the thinking behind them.

"I love teaching science, but science doesn't exist in isolation," Cordes said. "The story about nuclear weapons, energy tells us science is definitely connected to the human experience and researchers were conflicted about the work they did. Some died from their experiments. I'm trying to make those connections and suggest them to viewers."

While Cordes is a self-taught painter, Marroquin has a masters degree in art from Eastern Washington University.

"Sam is a very talented artist," Cordes said. "She brings a fine arts perspective to the execution of her work and the concepts she's dealing with."

Marroquin says she typically likes to create work that depicts aspects of society that are sometimes ignored by popular culture. And she believes the threat of nuclear devastation is one of those topics.

"It seems to be a subject a lot of people are afraid to talk about, afraid to acknowledge, and I feel like it's important to talk about, and the more we talk about it, (the more likely) maybe something can be done," Marroquin said.

Two of Marroquin's acrylic paintings in the exhibit depict North Korea and the United States pointing nuclear warheads at each other on a map and a picture of a deserted home next to a drawing of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant — the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Russia that emitted radiation into the atmosphere and led to many deaths. The painting also includes a quote from a Chernobyl survivor who wanted to return home but couldn't after the accident.

"It (the quote) spoke to me about the human condition and the condition of the lives that were affected directly by Chernobyl. They ended up evacuating thousands of people who never were able to return to their houses," Marroquin said. "It deeply resonated with me because it put a different perspective on that accident."

Through the exhibit, Marroquin and Cordes want to open up a dialogue about science, art and nuclear power.

"I like showing them (Cordes' paintings) mainly to spark conversations about science and history. Art is complex and not easy to break down. It's (the exhibit) a good place to have those conversations," Cordes said.

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