A compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading as craft, and craft extending its middle finger.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Glore Psychiatric Museum Tour

Whew! I have so much to share with you. My midwestern sojourn yielded several treasures, but I'll start with my visit to the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. Glore is a lovingly handmade museum housed in the former Missouri State Mental Hospital. The current hospital adjoins the museum. It's hard to explain how great the museum is. Rather than brush the barbaric treatments that the hospital used in the past under the carpet, they choose to memorialize and exhibit them. The museum stresses how quickly treatments and attitudes toward mental health change, acknowledging the fact that the treatments that are currently in use will almost certainly be viewed as barbaric down the road. The exhibits can get a little bit silly...they're constructed on a shoestring budget using mannequins from 60's and 70's department stores. It's a bit disconcerting to see Barbie-like figures being strapped down for electroshock therapy by a faceless male mannequin.

Notably, there is a lot of patient art at the museum. It pains me a bit to lump the art in with "extreme craft", outsider art, or Art Brut...it's all a bit prickly to do without being unfair to the patients. The craft works are often windows into the condition of the patients, such as this piece embroidered by a schizophrenic patient. The phrases that were embroidered helped give doctors a clue about the patient's condition. The patient uses language liberally, even coining her own new words.

The museum features other curiosities, such as a display of 1,446 objects that were swallowed by a patient. The patient died while the doctors were attempting to surgically remove the objects. Also, the basement of the museum (the former morgue) houses two cars that were customized by the younger patients. No expense (or love) was spared in the creation of the cars, and they bear the awards to match.

I took a lot of photos at the museum, and created this flickr gallery for you to peruse. Enjoy.


At 6/22/2007 08:45:00 AM, Blogger John M said...

Excellent report! I know George Glore, the man for whom the museum is named. He's the former public relations specialist for the St. Joseph State Hospital. When I worked for the St. Joseph Gazette, it was Mr. Glore's dream to develop this museum. As you state, it truly was put together on a shoestring budget, but it is certainly worth the visit.


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