The Living Museum
If there's any body out there (the stingy federal government, for example) that still needs to grasp the salutory, the psychological, the spiritual, the transformational value of making art, pack them off to Jessica Yu's The Living Museum. This is one lovely, thought-provoking, inspiring documentary, a visit to an informal art school within the Creedmoor Pychiatric Center in Queens, New York, where mental patients are offered free range to make any kind of art they desire. What they achieve is wild and woolly, and often downright fabulous. Professional artists should be so able to tap into their unconsciousnesses, so in touch with their pain.
Their therapist/mentor/friend, Dr. Janos Marton, labels his The Living Museum "an oasis where it's all right to be mad or crazy," and he's adamant that everything fabricated there is masterly. "I am arguing that mental illness and art are a naturally great combination," he says. "Anyone who had a mental breakdown and psychotic breakdown and come out of it--he or she makes great art."
Filmmaker Yu spends time with half-a-dozen mental patient artists, listening to their agonizing stories, watching them storyboard, collage,sculpt, and paint. She follows Dr. Marton's enlightened guidelines: never romanticizes mental illness; romanticize the art work by the mentally ill. As for Doc Marton himself: he's a peach of a guy, a non-sentimental Patch Adams meets Awakenings, a Robin Williams whose humility causes him to step aside for the really disturbed ones to take center stage and create.