“Talisman of the Ward”
The Album of Drawings by Edward Deeds
On View at Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York, NY
January 10- February 9,2013
Talisman of the Ward: Album of Drawings by Edward Deeds is currently on view at Hirschl and Adler Modern this month. A Street Frames would like to thank Harris Diamant along with Hirschl and Adler Modern for the opportunity to frame such a unique body of work.
The exhibit will feature a selection of thirty drawings that represents many of the important themes found within the extraordinary album of James Edward Deeds, Jr.,(1908-1987). A life long ward of the state of Missouri and a mental patient at Nevada, Missouri’s State Hospital, No.3
Deeds was committed in 1936 after an attempted suicide, to the State Hospital No. 3 and diagnosed with dementia praecox and schizophrenia. Deeds would live there involuntarily for the next 37 years until being released to a nursing home. The hospital was an enormous place built in the 19th century. Psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride believed that the best way to rehabilitate patients was by surrounding them with beauty, spaciousness and outlets for productivity. Thus Deeds began drawing, executing 280 numbered drawings in ink, crayon and pencil. The drawings were done on both sides of a 140 ledger pages, each baring the mane of the hospital. They were subsequently numbered and sewn into a handmade leather album.
Edward gave the album to his mother who in turn gave it to her youngest son Clay who would later, when moving, accidentally gave it to the movers who would later discard it as “useless.” The portfolio was recovered from the trash bin by a 14-year-old boy. This boy held on to it for 36 years- until he sold it in 2006 on Ebay to a bookseller who quickly resold it. The purchaser then sold the portfolio to a Manhattan collector. the unknown collection of works caused a stir in the Outsider Art circles and set off a search for the artists identity. The unknown artist was was only known as the “Electric Pencil” based on the enigmatic title inscribed at the top of drawing “no.197″ The works filled with tantalizing names, words, people, and places became clues to the identity of the unknown artist. The official ledger paper of State Hospital No.3 also known as State Lunatic Asylum, No.3 held the key. Identification of the unknown artist took 5 years. Articles in a local newspaper would catch the attention of Deeds’ family members and the release of Deeds’ medical records gave positive identification of the unknown
Deeds was described by his doctors as “hilarious” and “boisterous”, vocal but not combative, prone to singing and wild delusions of grandeur. It is reasonable to assume that drawing was a therapeutic escape for Deeds. His drawings are innocent, devoid of violence and suffering, but reveal acute distress. “ECT” appears in several drawings . This attempt to spell “electric” became an acronym for electroconvulsive therapy or “shock treatment”. Visual sources for the drawings stem from National Geographic magazines, books from the hospital library, portraits that lined the hospital halls, his imagination and experiences such as the annual circus visit. Deeds would capture the romantic and extraordinary diversity the circus animals and performers in remarkable detail. Humor,whimsey and wordplay mixed with stylized draftsmanship has set him apart from others in the Outsider movement.This unique look into the life of a man through innocent crayon strokes and deep emotions should not be missed.