Friday, January 27, 2017
A Kinder World
Next time I visit, next time I write, I'll be more composed, but for now, today's visit to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center's Living Museum has set so many words & images dancing in my head I need to jot down a few impressions.
1. The vast space of the museum, with its high ceilings and its labyrinthine rooms circling the main studio. Step through the doorway into Utopia.
2. The visual overload has me hardly able to concentrate. I take a quick, gulping set of photographs, all in a rush, and then forget the camera entirely. None of the pictures I take amount to anything.
3. In talking to the artists working here, I slow down. I'm reminded of my old job, where I learned how to fit inside conversations in a gentler way. I've gotten quite out of the habit since then, but today somehow I swing right back into the old rhythm. It's good to listen with more focus and attention, ask simpler, honest questions. It's a deeper dialogue.
4. The main prerequisite for working here, director Dr Janos Marton says, is kindness.
5. There is no "we" and "they" in the Living Museum, he says. We are all the same.
7. Mannequins and small, pinched clay heads. Superman's up on the cross, with Batman watching from below. Altar pieces, an illustrated guide to the 13th Amendment, a model of the Art Machine (Hot Freaks). From apparently simple colored geometric patterns, a childish truck at a traffic light, to skillfully rendered, complex visions. 13 (again) Ways of Looking at a Straitjacket - you'll find them re-imagined, positioned about the museum at unexpected turns. The Artist, no Patient here, strikes back.
7. Trump is represented, painted with his family and additional fawning blondes. He's clutching his dick and leering at the viewer. The artist has him down pat.
8. A poem of farewell, written on a wall in neat script. "... No more chicken no more eggs/ No more patients off their hinges/Beg for cups of coffee and drink the dregs/No more chickens no more eggs 'cause /I ain't a-gonna eat Creedmoor/Forensic Food no more."
9. Orangutang you rang. One ring a dingy.
10. Painted on cloth and on board. BE REALISTIC. FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH.
11. Two blue women; on paper in profile, and a pert-faced model in a white sweatshirt and a multicolored scarf. The scarf half-conceals a Black angel with white wings. Girls Actions.
12. I hear my name, and there's K. from the Residence! I can't exactly say I'd hoped to find a former student here, but I'm still elated. We hug, and he tells me he likes this place. We gossip about kids and teachers, who he's still in touch with, who's ended up in a good spot, and who's in jail. I feel a flood of tenderness for the boys I used to work with - jacked up on too much sugar, veering from sweetness to vitriol in a heartbeat, drowsy, hyper, overweight, patiently writing the stories of their lives, or working their way, word by stubborn word, through a kindergarten primer. With their hands sneaked down their pants under the table, or their fingers worrying a scab, or their heads drop, dropping down when meds engulf them. Boys on Fridays, heady with the prospect of home visits, which may or may not end well, and other boys who only get to watch them go. Impossible, lumbering innocents.
13. Leaving this sanctuary of beauty, urgency and kindness, you're back in reality. For what it's worth, in January 2017, it doesn't look too hot by comparison.
Many thanks to Dr. Marton, who took the time to sit and talk, take us on a tour, and share a meal. I'm indebted.