One must not be too romantic about madness…

Feeling burned out today from my bread and butter work, I decided to ignore my entire to-do list this evening, decided to not to catch up on things, to ignore prepping for the rest of the week.

Instead– I got my hands dirty, dove back into my research into mental health treatment 1940’s to 60’s and finished a sketch.

Electroshock therapy unit

This current exploration is a natural sequel to my ever-evolving project: Molly- a true crime analysis.  

Molly’s younger brother, Joseph, was admitted to the Provincial Mental Hospital, in Essondale BC, on November 25, 1948 at 1:15 PM.  He was institutionalized until his death in 1963.



Joseph’s 270+ page file and my historical research into his treatment is being developed into a visual thesis of some sorts.  How it will all look in the end is a mystery.  I remain passionate and mesmerized and grateful for “being chosen” to tell their story.



One must not be too romantic about madness, or the madhouses in which the insane were confined.  There is, under the manias and grandiosities and fantasies and hallucinations, an immeasurably deep sadness about mental illness, a sadness that is reflected in the often grandiose but melancholy architecture of the old state hospitals. – Oliver Sacks


ASYLUM. #graphicnovel research

When I saw this book on my fave site, BrainPickings, I immediately called around the local bookstores and found a copy downtown.

From BrainPickings:

One of the 19th-century’s most notorious socioarchitectural phenomena were the “insane asylums” that housed the era’s mentally ill — enormous and stunning buildings whose architecture stood in stark contrast with the ominous athmosphere of their inner workings.  Fascinated by this phenomenon and its ghosts, photographer Christopher Payne set out to document the afterlife of those baleful buildings in Asylum: Inside The Closed World Of State Mental Hospitals — a compendium of images that peel away at a lost world and, in the process, offer a provocative portrait of the history of our (mis)treatment of the mentally ill.  A foreword by iconic neuroscientist Oliver Sacks frame the photographs in a sociocultural context of how these institutions evolved and what role they came to play, both in their time and in our reflections on history.

Observation window. (p. 103)

My friend, Darcy, and I poured over it, at once fascinated, sad, gleeful and horrified.  We talked about what it may mean to us, to any of us, to feel these conflicting emotions.

For me, there is such a visual metaphor in these massive fortresses.  No matter how large they were, they could not contain the anarchistic and primitive human spirit stripped raw by mental illness/circumstance/trauma/misunderstanding.  There was an attempt to contain and cure.

But what are we containing?  How?   Why?  What are we killing by “curing” as opposed to embracing and providing a safe haven, a nurturing environment?  And what about the seemingly failed experiment of outdoor asylums like the Downtown Eastside?

Endless questions.

Recommended viewings:

Recommended readings:

Recall: Molly’s brother died in Essondale

Planning a return visit to the Riverview grounds do some in situ sketches.

Essondale (now Riverview) research files

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

Many have been asking if they can still contribute to the graphic novel project.  YES PLEASE!  You can donate via PAYPAL here: DONATE

Molly’s brother 1926-1963. Mental illness. Bowel obstruction. #Essondale #graphicnovel #Vancouver


MOLLY- the graphic novel (model: Jocelyn Louise)

I am finding incredible primary sources on ETSY and am particularly impressed with VINTAGE BOOK LOVER.

I ordered vintage 1940s resources regarding Tuberculosis and intestinal disorders.

I was elated to receive a special gift of bowel disorder illustrations, which proved PERFECT for finishing today’s page about Molly’s brother, Joseph, who passed away at Essondale [where he was committed for 14+ years] due to pulmonary edema complications and intestinal obstructions.

I love reading the primary resources and building a picture of the family dynamics.

Proc R Soc Med. 1933 September; 26(11): 1451.

Many have been asking if they can still contribute to the graphic novel project.  That’s wonderful and very helpful!!!  The rewards will stay the same as on Kickstarter.  Take a look at the rewards on the Kickstarter site.  You can donate via PAYPAL by clicking DONATE