March 1, 2015

A nice special mention of my work in art and design section of the THE GUARDIAN today: read it here!

CARRIE BURIED BENEATH CATALPA BEANS/MOUNTAIN SWEEP is a commission of sixteen photographs and texts I created at the segregated psychiatric- and epilepsy asylums in rural Virginia (where my ancestors were institutionalized), where anti-miscegenation eugenics crimes against humanity were perpetrated…scroll down for further information on the project.

It’s included in GROUP THERAPY at the marvelous FACT, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool. The exhibition opens on March 5th and runs through May 17.

quintan ana wikswo group therapy fact sarah buried beneath catalpa beans


Featured in the exhibition GROUP THERAPY at FACT/UK: 5 March -17 May 2015, CARRIE BURIED BENEATH CATALPA BEANS / MOUNTAIN SWEEP was created through a commission by FACT (The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), a National Endowment for the Arts residency at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Theo Westenberger Foundation, and Creative Capital. —> Quintan Ana Wikswo’s suite of photographs, poems, and essays surrounds the Western State Lunatic Asylum, Central State Mental Hospital, and the State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded: three segregated United States government-run eugenics asylums in rural Virginia. She created the work at the mass graves, cemeteries, and medical facilities using salvaged government cameras and typewriters manufactured during the 1930s and 40s by institutional slave labor. Under the pretense of providing psychiatric care, these three asylums were used to segregate, persecute, and police the lives of people who were deemed noncompliant to social norms. With a proud and publicly stated ideology of wealthy white supremacist social purity, these facilities perpetrated catastrophic crimes against humanity throughout the entire 20th century, and created a legacy of bigotry that still pervades mental health institutions today.

In the pastoral Shenandoah Valley of rural Virginia, a modern streamlined freeway cuts through the meadows and hills of Lynchburg, with occasional road markers indicating gas stations, convenience stores, and restrooms – a short distance away is the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, a hospital complex where State-sponsored medical atrocities against disabled people were committed and still today remain hidden, secret, and unacknowledged. For decades, physicians Albert Priddy and Joseph DeJarnette killed, maimed, and experimented upon local citizens found to be disabled, epileptic, mixed race, sexually transgressive, or otherwise undesirable to the State of Virginia. In 2009, Quintan Ana Wikswo went to the site and began creating the photographs and essays of CARRIE BURIED BENEATH CATALPA BEANS / MOUNTAIN SWEEP.

With the enthusiastic cooperation of law enforcement, the justice system, and the medical industry, a process called “Mountain Sweeps” encouraged communities to forcibly institutionalize their undesirables: “mongrels” of non-white or mixed racial heritage, unwed mothers and their illegitimate children, Native Indians, African-Americans, “inferior whites,” people with physical and neurological disabilities, sexual assault survivors, and those accused of homosexuality, sexual activity outside marriage, “race mixing,” or “acts contaminating the purity and soundness of the white race.”

Once inside these asylums – and similar institutions throughout Europe and the United States – several million human beings were subjected reproductive sterilization and castration, medical experimentation, lobotomies, electroconvulsive/electroshock, and punishment by straightjackets, ankle and wrist restraints, insulin-induced coma, and needle showers. Sexual exploitation and enslaved labor was disproportionately perpetrated against women, girls, and African-Americans.

Under these lethal, punitive, and intentionally inhumane tactics, “discharge by death” was commonplace.