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Sip, Slip, Sleep 

I've recently been researching the history of the wellness industry, particularly focusing on the rise of alternative cures that came at the turn of the century as a response against the chemical concoctions preferred by mainstream medicine in the Industrial era. Experimental retreats and sanatoriums cropped up throughout Europe and North America, attracting upper-class guests who wanted to try out the latest medical fads. These centres came with hefty price tags, and the treatments they provided ranged from truly beneficial, to ineffective, harmful, or even deadly.

In 1911, the Williamson sisters were drawn into one such programme, reaching out to Linda Hazzard in the hope of staying at her new sanatorium. The sanatorium wasn’t ready, so while construction was being completed, Hazzard put the sisters up in the ‘Buena Vista’ apartments in Seattle. Here, neighbours and nurses watched as the sisters began to waste away, consuming only one or two cups of strained vegetable broth a day. They’d take this in the morning and faint throughout the day until they’d be put to bed. Gregg Olsen imagines in his book ‘Starvation Heights’ the scene of the sisters being carted onwards to the sanatorium while those acquainted with the sisters watched, not intervening, knowing they’d likely never see the pair again. The Williamsons, likewise, didn’t question Hazzard’s treatment in this time, convinced by her charismatic and controlling personality and quickly depleted of their mental and physical capacities with such lack of nutrition.

'Sip, Slip, Sleep', approx. 40 x 50 cm, oils on canvas and board

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