The Treatment Room

An essay by Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography Santa Barbara Museum of Art

If the all too-familiar piles of dated magazines and the nondescript chairs and lamp weren’t a give-away, the pleasant poster on the wall announces that the viewer is in a waiting room. It is the first image in Jane Fulton Alt’s powerful series, “The Treatment Room,” in which she visualizes the experience of being both client and clinician in pursuit of unlocking the secret spaces in an individual’s mind. The myriad psychiatric offices Alt pictures are at once benign, banal, predictable…there is the proverbial couch…and homey, with a comforter and tissue box at the ready. Images of the appointment book and desk, the telephone and ever-present clock, along with books and lint rollers, orchids and ornaments, suggest nothing out of the ordinary. But the identities of the humans present are concealed, portrayed only by gestural postures and details that reveal who is patient, who is therapist. The sense of secrecy and intimacy builds as one realizes that these rooms contain and protect longing, anguish, cruelty, disappointment, yearning and hope. These are powerful places indeed and Jane Fulton Alt’s images suggest the inherent tension, companioned with the feeling of safe haven, that these spaces – and the clinicians – offer.


Installation of The Treatment Room, The Artist Project, Art Chicago 2008