|Care of Ward 81, Photographs by Bill Diodato. |
Published by Golden Section Publishing, 2010.
Reviewed by Rena Silverman
Bill Diodato Care of Ward 81
Photographs and text by Bill Diodato. Foreword by Mary Ellen Mark.
Golden Section Publishing, 2010. Hardbound. 64 pp., 46 color and black & white illustrations, 10x6-1/2".
Enter Ward 81, where the walls cake and crumble down into a pile of ruins once called a floor. Ahead, three symmetrical windows reveal a day's light, made leaden by cloud or snow (or dust stuck to the glass). Above, the patchwork of a ceiling hangs like a mouth without teeth, its framework bulging from humidity and neglect.
Bill Diodato has captured empty rooms like this at a state mental hospital in Oregon, where mentally ill women dwelled in the 70s. (It is also the location where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed.) The book progresses through a creative flow of colorful images. In the earlier pages, white typography pops out of the small, black frame, while the later pages have been dressed entirely in image.
The story behind Ward 81 has been considerately placed in the preface. Written by Diodato, the preface is necessary for introducing these photographs and the change that took place for the artist midway through his work. Diodato wrote that originally he blamed "Capitalist greed," as "the driving force behind the breakdown and decay of this once vital facility," Ward 81. But, after the Oregon State Legislature granted him permission to shoot the facility in 2005, Diodato's opinion changed. Based on his experience, he concluded, "...maybe this is one case where capitalist greed got lucky." The place looked so horrible, perhaps it was a good thing it closed down.
Mary Ellen Mark wrote the forward to Care of Ward 81. It is difficult to tell whether that was a good idea. On the one had, it provides book owners with a contextual reference, while humbling Diodato and brightening his personality as a photographer. On the other hand, it makes one research Mark's photographs, which have both an artistic quality and a political voice.
The colors are lovely, but the crumbling walls and decay and political statements at the beginning of this book do not make a proper coffee table book; rather, a personal look into someone's beliefs illuminated by the tall windows and crackles and hues in Care of Ward 81.—Rena Silverman
Rena Silverman is a freelance writer and art journalist. She has contributed to Examiner.com, the New York Art Beat, and Marie Claire magazine. You can learn more about her by going to www.renasilverman.com.