Pins and Needles

My mother was very particular about her appearance. As an officer's wife she believed that she represented her husband and that her outward appearance reflected the state of their home, their lives and their level of success. She had her hair cut, shaped and sprayed into a perfect helmet twice weekly. She shopped carefully and dressed conservatively. She arranged Wives' Club activities, but her greatest duties were to her husband. She kept a spotless house. She sewed and ironed and scrubbed and cooked and packed and unpacked for a score of moves to distant posts. Everything she did was for my father: to promote his career, to keep him glued together. She had one creative outlet: needlepoint.

My mother was a proud woman. The last weeks of her life she checked out of the family. She discouraged visits to the hospital, barely spoke when we called. Her wardrobe was reduced to a small pile of white gowns decorated with tiny bluedesigns which look like symbols of an obscure science. The day she died we gathered around her and said our good-byes. This memory stands out against all others: my mother dressed in that thin white gown with the little blue stars, the perfect helmet of hair resting on the nightstand.


Madeline Wilson


Dirty Laundry

The hospital gown, Johnny, mediates the identity of the patient and becomes an instrument of control. Upon donning the gown, the patient enters the hospital system and becomes his or her disease in much the same way a convict dons the orange overalls and become his or her crime. The individual is left at the door, his clothing closeted behind flush panels in the examination room or the ward, his individual value in the world suspended for the duration of his stay in the hospital. This costuming is part of the hospital system, designed to put the patient is a state of suspended animation, in which his universe becomes confined by the walls of the hospital.

The images are a response to the hospital experience: upon entering the system the patient becomes a player in the medical theater and her identity is masked by the props, procedures, and loss of power inherent in the experience.

Madeline Wilson