Patrick Nagatani, Radiation Therapy Room, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Patrick Nagatani, Radiation Therapy Room, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1989

Patrick Nagatani
1945 Chicago, Illinois - 2017 Albuquerque, New Mexico
Radiation Therapy Room, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Chromogenic print
27 ½ x 31 in. (mat)
Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, 1989 General Obligation Bonds, PC1991.30.33
photo by David Nufer

Painter Harry Nadler and photographic storyteller Patrick Nagatani were friends, as well as colleagues at the University of New Mexico. Nadler was undergoing radiation treatment for an inoperable tumor behind his ear when his friend created this unforgettable document. Historically, in many cultures, emerald green has symbolized peace, balance, and eternity.

The most distressing aspect of this portrait is that years later Nagatani, too, battled cancer for a decade. A series of computerized tomography images (CT scans) were used to monitor Nagatani's disease. CT machines take multiple X-rays from different points of view. Nagatani addressed atomic energy and the social construct surrounding nuclear weapons for much of his career, yet radiation also played a role in prolonging his life. In the long run, a caustic sense of ironic humor proved to be Nagatani's most effective weapon.