For those who have seen the proto-type for Maureen Cummins’ newest work we were showing in CA and NYC, we are pleased to say that the work is complete and ready. Maureen just forwarded the following prospectus, which summarizes the work quite perfectly:
The/rapist is an investigation into the gendered history of psychosurgery, as illustrated by the career of Doctor Walter Freeman (1895-1972). A Professor of Neurology with no formal training in either surgery or psychology, Freeman popularized the pre-frontal lobotomy, an operation in which nerve connections to and from the frontal lobes—the seat of human emotion, creativity, willpower, and imagination—are severed. A self-styled showman who drove ice picks through his patients’ eye sockets, rode around in a “lobotomobile,” and conducted a 1953 tour dubbed “Operation Ice-Pick,” Freeman freely admitted that his work created a “surgically induced childhood,” with many “failed outcomes.”
It is a history that raises numerous and disturbing questions about patients’ rights, the abuse of institutional power, and the disproportionate targeting of women. Of the 3,500 or more patients that Freeman operated on, twice as many were female, many depressed or suicidal housewives. Even now, electroshock—Freeman’s favored method of anesthesia—is applied to female patients two to three times as often as males.
In the opening pages of the book, Cummins uses the analogy of physical rape to suggest the way in which psychosurgery became a form of violence-against-women (and men) perpetuated in the name of medical progress. The concept is textually and visually reinforced as the reader pages through the book: the title, “The Rapist” morphs into the word, “Therapist?” while a laser-cut hole bores through the book, penetrating silkscreened images of patients’ heads. These headshots, “before-and-after” photographs that Freeman used to document his work, are re-contextualized, with lines of typography mimicking blindfolds, reclaiming for these patients a measure of dignity, humanity, and anonymity. Throughout the book, the artist’s mordant sense of humor is in evidence: The name Freeman transforms into “Free Man,” while found images—everything from advertising cuts of arrows and pointing fingers to reproductions of Freeman’s ice picks—serve as illustrations, providing ironic counters to the subject matter, often—as with the sunburst, moon, and encircling question marks—cleverly incorporating the hole.
Constructed entirely out of aluminum, The/rapist is inspired by the cold, hard surfaces of medical clipboards and equipment, as well as by Freeman’s actual tools, viewed by the artist in the Freeman/Watts collection at GWU, where she conducted her initial research. Pages of the book are laser-cut, burnished on one side, printed with multiple layers of text and imagery, “dimpled” to prevent scratching and wear, then mounted within rings to a sturdy baseboard. The text is printed in Frutiger, a classic mid-century sans-serif typeface. Images reproduced in the book are 19th century engravings, handwritten notes and text, as well as graphs and headshots from Freeman’s 1950 textbook Psychosurgery: In the Treatment of Mental Disorders and Intractable Pain. The book is housed in a burnished aluminum box with a screwed-down aluminum title plate. For exhibition purposes, copies can be propped up vertically, with the backboard acting as a stand, or positioned with the pages fanned out in a pleasing sculptural form.
Detailed images are available upon request. As you may or may not know, the prices for Maureen’s work step when a certain number of sales have been hit. As this is an edition of 40, we encourage you to let us know as soon as reasonably possible should you wish to add it to your collection.