By Diane Arbus

It's simple: every time I look at Diane Arbus's photographs taken at residences for the mentally retarded, I cry. The subjects, mainly women, seem to be bound together on their way to special occasions. They wear costumes over their hospital gowns. They wear masks to hide their faces. They have no artifice, no calculation. The roads these tenuous heartbreakers travel seem to be leading them slowly, surely, and ever so faithfully into that big question markā€¦the great unknown. Arbus tells us, with the mastery of her vision, that we're not so different from the unfortunate ladies in dress-up, laughing and holding one another as they parade by with the invisible word hope penciled underneath their fake mustaches.


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