Janos Marton, Ph.D.

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Janos Marton, Director of The Living Museum

Born in Hungary in 1949, Janos Marton grew up in the shadow of communism and the legacy of the Holocaust. His father, a dissident economist, was taken off to prison for six years on the day his son was born. In the 1960s the Martons received political asylum in Austria and moved to Vienna, where Janos attended high school and studied psychology. He became familiar with the artwork of the psychiatric patients at the  Landers Clinic, a state hospital in Maria Gugging in the suburbs of Vienna.

The art program in Gugging had its own building, known as the House of Artists.  The painter Jean Dubuffet included the work of several Gugging patients in his collection of Outsider Art or Art Brut. Through Dubuffet, the concept of Art Brut was popularized. It dealt with the nature of individual self-expression, intention and authenticity, exploring the boundaries between artistic creativity and mental illness, and the definitions of art itself.

In 1976, Dr. Marton received a Ph.D. in psychology and in 1980, a M.A. in fine arts at Columbia University. He then went to work as a psychologist at Creedmoor, the largest of five state psychiatric institutions in Queens, New York.

It was certainly more tempting for a young European to try his luck in the New World rather than to take a job at the clinic in Gugging, Austria, where he would have perpetuated the venerable school of thought personified by the Director of the Gugging Museum, the psychiatrist Leo Navratil. But the enormous effort it would take to create what was to become the Living Museum cannot be adequately explained by a young man’s thirst for adventure or by Dr. Marton’s understated description of his generation’s world view: “We were the children of Marx and Coca Cola, rejecting both.”

In 1983, Creedmoor housed about 1,350 patients. It was the year when Dr. Marton invited Bolek Greczynski, a Polish artist known for his work in political art and experimental theater, to join the hospital staff. Together, the two guided the transformation of an abandoned building on the campus known as Building 75 that housed the main kitchen for the Creedmoor patients. They took down the paint peeling off the walls and the layers of fat and dust clouding the windows. Some rooms were inhabited by squirrels, others were locked and inaccessible. Marton and Greczynski had the ability to see through the grime and faded interior of the deserted building and, with time, created an ever-changing space full of art and beauty, the Living Museum.

Mr. Greczynski became the museum’s first director. Dr. Marton took over the post in 1995. Today, around one hundred artists work at the museum regularly. About fifteen percent have been artists all their lives. Some sell their work at commanding prices, and these are featured in shows and often reviewed. The doors of the Living Museum are open to all patients who are residents of Queens, N.Y. and supported by the state system. Some come daily, some once a week. Most are outpatients; fifteen to twenty percent are inpatients. All are under psychiatric guidance and on medication.

6 Responses to Janos Marton, Ph.D.

  1. Pingback: Janos Marton on Skype | Tekenen van alledaagsheid

  2. Jessica Noelte says:

    Dear Dr. Marton,

    my name is Jessica Noelte I study my master in Expressive Art in Germany.
    Beside that study I work as a social worker in a monitored living for People with psychiatric sickness. In may I´m in North Carolina for a Expressive Art Workshop. I´m very interested in “Outsider Art” a friend from the University told me about the Living Museum in New York. I want to write in my final master Thesis about Outsider Art – see differnt Ateliers a view there concept. At the end I would like to create my own concept of a open Atelier for Outsider Art.
    Is there a Chance that I could participate for a practical course the last week of may 2014? Please let me know if that would be possible, I´m looking to buy this Weekend the flight tickets.

    warmly regards,

    Jessica Noelte

  3. Pingback: The Mysteries of Creativity | Dana Foundation Blog

  4. Shireen Pasha says:

    Saw The living Museum film in Montreal last night and heard the Q&A.
    I talked with you briefly….Kindly do look up the soofi concept of the Khanqah….
    it may interest you happenning….. Thank you for your presence and great to see this actually happening…..Shireen Pasha

  5. breindel lieba kasher says:

    i should like to understand more about this project, the living museum. I visited my father, who was a gentle writier, in creedmore in the 60’s 1 year, on and off visiting days. what i saw left it’s permenant mark for a lifetime. i am now in the process of making art work on the “hospital.” I have written a seriess 3 poems : Mixing Invisibles; Creedmoor; Marion

    Perhaps they will interest you. I am almost finished with my collage….

    Sincerely

    Breindel Lieba Kasher

    Mixing Invisibles

    The scene opens
    Down a long hall
    Dark green walls
    Under a bare bulb
    Dead men shuffle
    On the left, a shaky table
    Lucky Strikes, a portable radio
    The attendant bends
    Drops his head
    Between her legs
    She crosses over

    In this asylum
    Bone sorrow
    Mixing invisibles
    Mumbling metaphysicals
    She waits, as if back stage
    While he lectures
    To an empty room

    Agony clocks in
    Between the bringing and
    Taking him back
    To the den
    With the other dead men
    And all those details
    Pea soup nails
    The jingle
    The way a steel door locks
    The way the scene opens
    Down a long hall
    Dark green walls
    Under a bare bulb
    Dead men shuffle

    Creedmoor

    It was called
    “ A hospital,”
    But it wasn’t
    No one recovered
    In the asylum
    The wicked
    Played doctor
    With patients
    Strapped down
    Around the room
    Nurses run in
    Rubber-gum shoes
    A whistle
    A stretcher
    A whirly-bird siren
    Red-hot
    Strike the iron
    For the sick
    And the tired
    A day breaks
    Behind locked doors

    Marian

    I saw Marian
    At the mental hospital
    I wondered
    Who she was visiting?

    We did not speak
    No one meets here
    You bury
    Footprints, memory
    Wading through
    The black
    A shock of blue
    Across the room
    Her eye white flutters
    A dead bell signals
    Do not enter

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