The Long Way Home


Down a Dark Hallway
August 28, 2011, 12:05 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery, West Virginia | Tags: , , ,

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These photos are the last in the asylum series; I don’t want to leave them. I mentioned in earlier posts about the light and space and how I loved it – and how much the history of this place affected me. It helped me to connect to something outside of my grief, which has changed me. Would I have experienced the mystery of these hallways in the same way had my mother not died this past January? Everything is different now that she’s gone. I feel things more deeply. I resonate with indescribable sadness, and when I’m happy, I am so filled with joy  I can hardly hold it in my arms.

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Reasons For Admission
August 26, 2011, 6:27 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery, West Virginia | Tags: ,

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Reasons for Admission, 1864 to 1889 (from the TALA archives): Bad habits and political excitement. Desertion by husband. Brain fever. Business nerves. Fall from horse. Deranged masturbation. Imaginary female trouble. Jealousy and religion. Immoral life. Opium habit. Over action of the mind. Bite of rattle snake. Asthma. The war. Uterine derangement. Rumor of husband murder. Medicine to prevent conception. Vicious vices in early life. Sunstroke. Fighting fire. Novel reading. False confinement. Greediness. Gathering in the head. Laziness. Loss of arm. Liver and social disease. Milk fever. Bad whiskey. Women. Disappointment of nerves. Grief.

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Lost & Found
August 24, 2011, 6:42 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery, West Virginia | Tags: ,

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It is every urban explorer’s dream to walk into a forgotten place with crumbling rooms still intact – objects abandoned, chairs pushed out from tables as if the inhabitants only left for a few minutes instead of years. But mostly we just found empty rooms, unhinged doors and windows bursting with sunlight. One of the historians at the asylum told us that when the hospital closed in the 1990s, workers found jars of patients’ organs lined on shelves in the medical building, which were later buried in an unmarked grave on the property. There is the difficult task of tracing patient histories when so much has been lost. We found medicine logs from the 1970s lying on a dirty windowsill in the geriatric building. A hospital gown stuffed into a locker. The Victorian greenhouse, like something out of Burnt Offerings, humid and lush with creeping ivy. An art deco exit sign on the third floor in the middle of a dark hallway. A sooty fireplace, a purple ball, a flooded basement and deafening quiet.

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A World Within a World

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When we crossed the West Fork River into Weston, I was in awe by the site of the asylum; it’s so enormous that it literally took my breath away. The castle-like structure is a Kirkbride model, designed with the belief that a patient’s environment was part of the cure for mental illness. Doctors encouraged patients to engage in farming, cooking and cleaning of their ‘home’ – activities not only with the plan of curing, but also creating the world where they lived, sometimes for the rest of their lives. One of the last people admitted there was singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. You can view his artwork while listening to loops of his music in the patient art gallery. The hospital closed in 1994, not too long ago, and I’m trying to imagine what it was like for someone to roam the hallways or tend to the gardens, to look through the barred windows out to a town that they may never have known.

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Lily’s Room
August 19, 2011, 6:31 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery, West Virginia | Tags: , , ,

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The ghost of a girl supposedly haunts the green room pictured above, which is why the ball and the toy duck were left there. I didn’t know this when I entered it, but I didn’t feel her presence. I wanted to feel something when I walked those hallways, but what I felt was mostly sadness,  a heaviness that I attribute to being in a place with a dark history and my grief. Through barred windows and broken doors, rooms flooded with light.

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Color Story
August 16, 2011, 6:39 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery, West Virginia | Tags: , ,

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This past Saturday I woke at six a.m. to take photos at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a birthday gift from Jeff. I admit, I was nervous, thinking about ghosts lurking the hallways, but once I entered the building, I was so taken with light and color and stalactites of paint hanging in beautiful, unearthly formations that I didn’t feel afraid. I used my time there to also work on a project for Utata, featuring photos with one dominant color. Here’s a sneak peek into that project, as well as behind the asylum walls. I have a ton of photos to go through from this place that I’m excited to share, bear with me these next few posts.

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