Kennedy Museum’s “Asylum” Exhibit

19 Sep

A visit to the Kennedy Museum to see the exhibit “Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals” by photographer Chris Payne is strongly recommended.  The large format photographs are the result of a six year project in which Payne set out to document the often massive institutions built during the nineteenth century to house and treat individuals with mental illnesses.  As Payne puts it on his web site:  “From 2002 to 2008, I visited seventy institutions in thirty states, photographing palatial exteriors designed by famous architects and crumbling interiors that appeared as if the occupants had just left. I also documented how the hospitals functioned as self-contained cities, where almost everything of necessity was produced on site: food, water, power, and even clothing and shoes. Since many of these places have been demolished, the photographs serves as their final, official record.”

Payne’s images are powerful–even when paging through them on his web site.  But that experience cannot match seeing them displayed in a large format in a building that once housed one of the institutions that Payne set out to document.  It’s quite a moving experience.

Gallery hours are posted on the Kennedy Museum web site.  The new Richland Ave. pedestrian walkway and underpass make a walk up to the Kennedy Museum easy and pleasant.  The number of photographs are such that they can easily be viewed in the course of a lunch hour.  Chris Payne will be giving a lecture at the Kennedy Museum on October 21 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.  A reception will follow from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.  Both events are free and open to the public.


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