Ida Applebroog’s Mercy Hospital: Art and Mental Health
San Diego, 1969, Ida Applebroog locked herself in the bathroom of the house that sheltered her husband and four kids. She delicately sketched herself while gazing in the mirror. Sketch after sketch of her own vagina. Day after day, trying to make her name as an artist. And minute after minute, she wished herself dead.
In a series of poems called The Green Dress, Applebroog illustrates her thoughts surrounding her mental dilemmas during this time.
The Green Dress II:
The green dress, how many times can I repeat the green dress, the green dress, I had no razor blades at the bottom of my purse, I had no sleeping pills at the bottom of my purse, I had no sharp scissors at the bottom of my purse, no glass, no knife, no gun, but an indiscreet plastic bag, only indiscreet enough to fit comfortably over any average head, the plastic bag was, and I knew that I did not want to exist anymore, that I just wanted to disappear, but I knew that a plastic bag, if I put it over my head and I took a sleeping pill, or several sleeping pills and I tie it around tight around my head, that I knew I could leave this world (transcription from Call Her Applebroog)
The Green Dress marks a pivotal point in Applebroog’s life and was in the midst of when she decided, with the advice of her therapist, to commit herself to the mental ward at Mercy Hospital, San Diego.
During her time at the hospital in 1969, she did a series of watercolor paintings which would later make up the Mercy Hospital series. The 109 painting series comes from her sketchbooks she kept with her at all time throughout her treatment.
“In the hospital, I wasn’t very verbal so it was hard for me to deal with a psychiatrist, so I had lots of sketchpads that I would take with me everywhere I would go.”
She explained that the psychiatrist allowed her to skip out on occupational therapy and instead focus on her sketchbooks. At the end of her six week stay at Mercy Hospital, Applebroog gave the sketches to him, as she believe they belonged to him. After a couple of weeks, she called the psychiatrist and asked for…