Friday, 4 February 2011

A daily dose of culture, Adelaide V. hall

Today's work, is one that moves me more than any other artwork ancient or modern. The creator isn't even an 'artist' in the regular sense of the word. All that is known about her is that her name was Adelaide V. Hall and that she was an inmate at The Saint Elizabeth Psychiatric hospital, Washington. in 1918.
Various figures can be identified within this work, the minor figures are flatly woven into the piece in various sizes.
 This is the only piece of work that is on record, maybe through it Adelaide said all she had to say. This tiny piece of croche'd wool had all her miserable life woven into it, and having externalised her troubles she was content not to say anymore.
 If art means, as I believe it does, the honest expression of the artist's essence, then this tiny piece is art of the highest order.
Adelaide and her eight siblings were raised by their violent alcoholic father after the death of their mother. Poor Adelaide shared a bed with several of her brothers and with her father. Adelaide's claims of wretched and continuous sexual abuse was dismissed by her doctors as incest fantasies. Psychiatry was in it's infancy at the time and modern doctors have no hesitation in accepting Adelaide's accounts of the abuse. It would explain why Adelaide was hospitalised at least twice due to depression, 'melancholia, and so called delusions'.  When Adelaide was 13 years old, she went to live with her sister. She fell in love with her older brother and further complicated her life. The love affair was not allowed to continue and they were swiftly separated. She went on to lead a promiscuous adult life and had several affairs with married men where she eventually contracted syphilis. Although she never made anymore pieces like the one I'm showing today, she did make a lot of baby clothes for the children she never had.
 The croched piece is less than 10 inches square, it contains all the major players in her life and she depicts them according to their importance. Her father is the largest with prominent genitalia, with washers and beads woven in. Various siblings and her mother are featured, identified by a complex system of numbers and letters. This tiny work tells a story of her 'miserable, sordid life' as it was summed up by her so called carers. Adelaide was a victim of her circumstance and of her time. Her 'stories' were never believed, and she was never able to receive the help she so badly needed. Without this little scrap of wool, Adelaide would have remained an anonymous patient existing only in the dusty records of St Elizabeth's hospital. I dare anyone to not be moved by this beautiful eloquent work and by Adelaide's story.


  1. I was so moved by this piece by Adelaide, even my fourteen year old son was able to see the turmoil in her work. It is true treasure.

  2. I think Adelaide would be surprised and maybe even comforted a little to know that her work has 'spoken' to so many people over the years. This little piece really shows what art is really about, how it can communicate something so profound in a way that words couldn't. Hold this piece up against a contemporary piece of work and you'll see where art has gone wrong. It is no longer a means of wxpression it is just a vehicle for attaining celebrity, a means to shock and generate publicity. Adelaide's work is a shining example of what art should be about. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and it is gratifying to know that Adelaide's work is still touching people and can even move a modern teenager (lol)!

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