Peggy and I have been making great strides in shooting the cases that were returned from the Exploratorium. Last week, we started in on Madeline C, and yesterday we worked on her books and papers.
Madeline’s life was very full before coming to Willard.
She was living in the New York City area, and taking classes at both Columbia and Hunter College. You can see her Hunter ID card in the photograph above.
Somehow, she became a patient at Central Islip Psychiatric Center, and it was pretty clear that it wasn’t a great place for her. We came across many letters that she wrote to doctors outside of the institution that were never mailed. This is something that we rarely found at Willard.
Peg and I were both very moved by Madeline’s possessions. She was highly educated, completely bi-lingual in French and English (the original spelling of her name was Madeleine, so we assume she was born in France), and lived a very stimulating life before she was institutionalized.
This is just a tiny selection of her papers and books. I could easily post 50 photographs of her things; something I will get to when I upload her to the willardsuitcases.com site. Which given the sheer volume of images, might be a while.
Thanks to all of you for hanging in there with me on this. I really think that I will be done with shooting in the next few weeks, and will move to spending at least a few days a week editing and uploading. I am hoping to find some sort of artist’s retreat where I could spend a month just working on the project. Any suggestions would be welcome.
My dad, seen here in the middle, died 8 years ago today. I have always meant to write a long post about him, but the time never seems quite right. He was a really interesting guy. As he was about to be drafted into the Army, he heard about a US Navy Japanese language program at the University of Colorado. He applied, got accepted, and learned to read, write, and speak fluent Japanese in less than 18 months. He came out as a naval officer and spent the rest of the war translating intelligence intercepts. He was on a ship next to the USS Missouri when MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.
This photograph (a 4×5 contact print) has been on the wall of my studio for a really long time. I am sure at some point I turned it over, but the date on the back never registered with me.
Yesterday, I was looking at it and realized that he arrived in Yokohama just 2 days after the surrender. And very soon after that, these 3 guys were the first Americans to arrive on the island of Hokkaido to begin the occupation. I remember him saying that they didn’t know how they would be received, but that the Japanese were very welcoming and seemed to be greatly relieved that the war was over.
Click here and here for a couple of links about that time. It seems almost surreal to me to have such a direct connection to something that happened almost 70 years ago, and seems so far removed from my own experiences.
Here is another example of a complication in one’s life that could possibly lead to time spent at Willard. It has not been unusual to find evidence of language problems in the lives of people who were patients there. Obviously, there must have been other factors in Michael’s situation that led him to Willard, but we have never seen such a direct link to language issues. (Michael was born Michele B in Italy.) The pink note should be readable, but if not, here is the text. “Please give this man something for his ear as he can not talk much english [sic] to make you understand what he wants.” Very sad, and I wonder what the writer meant by “something for his ear”. My first thought upon reading this was a reference to the Babel Fish which is featured in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide series of books.
Yesterday, we also photographed Lawrence Mocha’s suitcase. I will do a longer post about him in the next few days.
Thanks for following.