First Visit Central State Hospital

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2015 at 4:40 am

Mab and I traveled to Milledgeville in June 2011 to discuss plans for a possible exhibit. Upon entrance to the hospital I found myself surrounded by death and decay; Central State had been closed for the most part since 2010 but many of the buildings had been abandoned for years. Vines covered a number of the structures and some had missing roofs.Central State Hospital_0156

I visited the grounds  of Central State Hospital several times over the course of designing the installation but nothing impacted me more than the cemeteries. Hundreds of metal markers greet visitors at the grave site entrance of the main cemetery, Cedar Lane. According to Alan Judd of the AJC: “For decades, patients at the state psychiatric hospital in Milledgeville were buried on the facility’s grounds, their graves marked only by a small metal stake. Groundskeepers tossed as many as 10,000 stakes into the woods in the 1960s, leaving the graves forever unmarked. In recent years, patient advocates have placed several hundred recovered markers in a memorial at the hospital’s Cedar Lane Cemetery.”

Cedar Lane Cemetery, Central State Hospital

Cedar Lane Cemetery, Central State Hospital

The metal markers at Cedar Lane reminded me of Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. But this graveyard was different because it held the remains of over 25,000 differently enabled persons. As I walked down Cedar Lane, every now and then I would see a headstone but for the most part, just trees and sunken earth, evidence that someone had been buried there. Cedar Lane Cemetery, along with the African American cemetery, is one of (if not) the largest burial ground for differently enabled persons in the world.

African American Burial Ground, Central State Hospital

African American Burial Ground, Central State Hospital

We have no evidence that Mary Roberts was buried at Cedar Lane Cemetery and not much is known about many of the 25,000 who rest there, but I knew that I had to create an installation that would remember and honor all of them. After reading the intake documents from the file of Mary Roberts, I knew that she would be my vehicle and I used her voice and my memory to channel her spirit.
Excerpt from intake examination:

Why were you sent to this place?

I wanted to be examined to see if I was crazy.Central State Hospital_0175

What had you been doing to make them think you were crazy?

I was at home praying.

Were you very much excited at that time?

Yes sir.  I would pray, shout and sing and then sometimes I would cry.

What do you think of yourself as compared with other people?
I don’t think I am better.

Do you think you are a Missionary?

Yes sir.

Do you think you are especially appointed by God?

Yes sir.

How long have you felt that way?

A long time.

White chair, Central State Hospital

White chair, Central State Hospital

Do you think that God has especially appointed you to preach for him?

Yes sir.

In what way did he reveal that thought to you?

I can’t exactly tell.

Have you any property?

No sir

Do you think you are rich?

No sir, I know I aint rich.

Do you think you can do anything better than anybody else?

No sir.


Has anything strange happened to you?

No sir, not much.


Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2014 at 6:36 pm
Connecticut College Art Department

Students in the Art Department at Connecticut College working on fabric square designs. The squares will be made into pillows and included in the installation. Pillows are incorporated throughout the installation. They serve as symbols of comfort as well as protection. Patients who were excited or agitated might have been put in a padded room or inn a straight jacket.

At about the time that I started working on the Wolf Creek Project in 2011, Mab Segrest contacted me about another Journey Project for Central State Hospital. When we met in 2011, Mab was Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Connecticut College. I knew very little about Central State Hospital but remembered Dorothea Dix in North Carolina.

“Keep on acting crazy and I’ll send you to Dorothea Dix!” my mother would threaten when I was overly rambunctious. To be sent to an asylum scared the crap out of me, even as a child. Cartoons and movies were full of insanity and even in my own home town there was a “sanitorium”.

Central State Hospital, located in Milledgeville, Georgia was  founded in 1842. At various times in its history, it was the largest mental health asylum in the country. Mab is writing a book on the institution and  I am creating a site specific installation for the Ennis Hall Gallery at Georgia College and State University. We are both working from intake documents of patient, “Mary Roberts”, an African American woman who  was interned there in 1911 for singing, praying, and shouting.  Her identity has been redacted because of confidentiality. The work also remembers some 30,000 patients who are buried on the hospital grounds, probably the largest burial ground of differently enabled persons in the world. The Moonlit Road gives a good synopsis of the history of Central State.

According to intake documents, Mary Roberts had “fits of insanity” at an early age. In fact, several of her relatives had episodes of mental dis-order. Tuberculosis was prevalent. “She has two children living and nine dead”, noted an attending physician. Much of the art work remembers her dead children and indeed all the children born in the facility.

I traveled to Connecticut College on two occasions in 2012 and worked with students in the Department of Art and Gender and Women’s Studies. I challenged the students to create pieces that would serve as prayers, healing, and offerings to those buried at Central State. The students did cyanotypes on fabric. Our main focus was hands, touch. The cyanotypes created by the students are included in the installation.

Student designs with my photography. I continue to explore design possibilities.

Student designs with my photography. I continue to explore design possibilities.

Collaboration is a core component of the Journey Projects and it is a challenge to use many parts to create a greater whole. I will share more about the process in the coming weeks before the show, which opens on January 29, 2015.

–Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier


Catching Up

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2014 at 6:19 am

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the Journey Projects blog. In fact, it’s been over six months! ‘So what have you been doing since you last posted’ you might ask. Let’s see if we can’t catch up.

Groundbreaking September 8, 2014 Wolf Creek Library, Atlanta, GA.

Groundbreaking September 8, 2014 Wolf Creek Library, Atlanta, GA.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree, the Journey Projects at Wolf Creek has been installed! The Wolf Creek Library opened on September 8!  I am currently working on Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward, a site-specific installation for Georgia College and State University that will open on January 20, 2015 in Milledgeville, GA. This new work remembers those interned at Central State Hospital, a state mental health facility founded in the mid-1800’s. More to come on this project.

So many people were employed on the Wolf Creek project and I was so happy to pay artists for their work. Jason Smith and his crew at Smithworks Iron and Design brought my vision to life through their fabrication of the Ogirishi Tree, which greets visitors upon entering the library.

Smithworks Iron & Design installing Ogirishi Tree.

Smithworks Iron & Design installing Ogirishi Tree. The tree, comprised of steel, ceramic tiles and ornaments is approximately 18′ tall. It contains two benches –one for adults and children that face the large glassed windows.

Pierre Coiron, Stability Engineering, working on structural design.

Pierre Coiron,  Stability Engineering, working on structural design.

Pierre Coiron of Stability Engineering was structural engineer for the project. The trunk, legs, benches, and branches all had to be precisely placed to ensure stability and safety. You should check out the engineering firm’s work on some major architectural projects in Atlanta and points beyond.

The Ogirishi Tree.

The Ogirishi Tree.

When entering the lobby of the library you can see the tree in the distance and the light from the surrounding landscape through the wall of windows. Leo Daly & Associates designed the building. I remember envisioning the tree when the space was just forest. To see my vision come to light. to complete the project on schedule despite setbacks tried my nerves at times but overall the journey was magical. I continue to push the boundaries of what I imagine and what I can do with this life that has been filled with making things tied to memory and myth. More to come…


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