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The Electric Pencil

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  • The Electric Pencil

    The Electric Pencil: A long-lost cache of sketches by a state mental hospital inmate finally yields up some of its secrets

    This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
    "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."

  • #2
    I love the deliberate, careful lines and use of a ruler. No sketching really. Still, why are things associated with old mental institutions so spooky? Too many horror movies?
    It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


    • #3
      Probably so ... eerie but, very interesting
      Hello... My name is Kittie and I'm a Font-a-holic.


      • #4
        Cool find!
        Sketching not only helps you work out good ideas, it helps you get past the bad ones.


        • #5

          $16,000 per double sided page?
          Even more reason to be angry at the family member who had it tossed.


          • #6
            I can certainly see why the collection would be important to the family and why it might be of passing interest to others. But it's the mental institution angle that seems to be the real attraction here, and like Buda, I fail to understand why.

            It's as though there's still a mysterious aura of creepiness associated with the severely mentally ill that fascinates people. Up until the late 1990s, the state mental hospital here in Utah held an annual haunted house / spook alley event at Halloween each year. The patients would dress up in costumes, and the public would pay money to get a first-hand look at the "crazy people."

            Today, instead of being locked away as insane asylum "inmates," our more "enlightened" society abandons them to the streets to beg for money and sleep in dark alleys where they're preyed upon by criminals and their problems compounded by out-of-control substance abuse. I wonder how many of these people are keeping pencils, crayons and collections of their meticulous drawings in their dirty coat pockets.


            • #7
              Well said <b>
              Last edited by Purtybluz; 09-12-2012, 03:44 PM. Reason: A case of the wrong case. In case you nd to know :)
              Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.


              • #8
                The state mental hospital annual freak show sounds terribly un-PC. I'm hoping that violet or fragile patients weren't permitted to play? We have a haunted house attraction here in Auckland that used to be a mental hospital but all the ghouls are paid actors.

                I think everyone is a little frightened of being locked up in a loony bin. Back then, you could be locked up for being a little different. Now we treat people by throwing pharmaceuticals at them.

                As for outsider art, I feel like today's outsider art would fetch money like this, but old art is pretty special. Imagine if we stumbled upon art of this level from the renaissance? That would be cool to see. Drawings from an untrained hobbyist of every day life or things they like. It's a time capsule.
                It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


                • #9
                  The mental institutions at the turn of the century were mysterious places. Not a lot of people actually knew what went on there and at the time no one really understood how the mind worked. The reference to ECT in the misspelling of Electric Pencil, according to that link was no accident. Powerful drugs like Thorazine and surgical practices like lobotomy all were part of the lexicon. There was, and to some extent still is, a whole mystique surrounding the idea of 'being committed." Back then, like in this man's case, it may have been a misdiagnosis of mild autism, ADHD or something just as innocuous today. Boys were 'put away' for being delinquints. Even in the 60s growing up around here were there was a lot of folklore surrounding the hospitals, 'being committed' was a big scary threat because you basically had no recourse once it was done.

                  Most of the Eugenics programs carried out in the US were done in mental institutions, before Hitler even conceived of his version of it. People of substandard intelligence or even those suspected of being so were force sterilized. I was on a website recently where they had a notification up that anyone that had been through the program in that state were now entitled to compensation. There's a huge write up about a town in my state that they were going to experiment on because they were poor, but seen by the proponents of eugenics as lazy, incompetent and not fit pro-create.
                  Luckily, that movement has mostly died out.
                  <research paper for college Psych class...sorry...>
                  Tell me there isn't an allure to these photos:


                  • #10
                    PrintDriver, those are fascinating photos.

                    Here, Malcom Bliss State Mental Hospital was connected to the old City Hospital #1 (the "whites only" hospital) and its Tower and Administration buildings. Unfortunately only the Admin building has survived, converted into condos by 2006.

                    But the threat I always heard growing up is still standing. "Do you want to live on Arsenal Street?" That was the home of the "St. Louis County Lunatic Asylum," later the "St. Louis City Insane Asylum," then "St. Louis State Hospital," and now the "St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center." This is one explanation why mental hospitals are so scary: People could be "put away" for any manner of "deviant" or "unnatural" behaviors.

                    Even in its earliest years the hospital never did operate with the 150 patients for which it had been designed. Within two decades of opening, it had 216 patients. On October 6, 1907, construction began on new wings and annexes (known as buildings B, C, D, E, G, H, I, J, and separate K building) to the original building to accommodate 2000 patients and employees. The next overflow crisis occurred in the early 1920s which precipitated a separate building being erected for attendants' quarters. This freed space in the hospital into which patients could be moved. By 1940, the hospital had 3,844 patients.

                    I wonder how many of those folks actually needed attention, and how many were simply "warehoused."
                    This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
                    "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."


                    • #11
                      In the Victorian Era the Upper / Middle class or even anyone who could afford the price of admission would gladly gawk at the great unwashed -Hoi Polloi. Many would take paid guided tours of asylums as a form of a sideshow, a maudlin view of pathos and wretchedness. "Train-wreck voyeurism"
                      "After all is said and done, more is said than done."


                      • #12
                        Quite honestly the art is not my style.
                        And this particular case screams of savvy-adman-created sensationalism.
                        It wouldn't surprise me if it was a total hoax either.


                        • #13
                          basic and hot


                          • #14
                            About an hour north of here you can live in a converted mental hospital...








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