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New Special Collections Exhibit Features Life and Work of Martha A. Hall ’71


artist books by Martha Hall

Published January 15, 2024

A new Special Collections exhibit, The Life and Work of Martha A. Hall is now available to view on the third floor of Neilson Library.

Special Collections, Third Floor
On Display until February 21, 2024

The exhibit celebrates the life and work of Martha A. Hall ’71. Hall was a teacher, weaver, business executive, mother, wife, entrepreneur, and artist. Through her writing and artist books, Hall documented every aspect of her experience with breast cancer, the main focus of the exhibition.

Hall was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, a month before she was due to receive her master's degree from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. After receiving her diagnosis, Hall underwent surgery and chemotherapy on the weekends in her home city of Portland, Maine, while simultaneously working as a marketing executive at American Express in New York City during the week. Though treatments were initially successful, Hall was re-diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 1993. It was around this time that she left her job in New York City and started making books.

Through her art, Hall pushed the boundaries of book form, processing her diagnosis, treatment, rediagnosis, and all the emotions she felt going through such an experience. Her books explore her relationships with her doctors, friends, and family, the constant changes in her body, and her frustrations with the American healthcare system. In her art, Hall bears all: her anger, love, despair, and, most notably, hope. Her visceral honesty and affective storytelling have been lauded by both cancer patients and physicians for their ability to transmute what it is like to be a patient and inspire more empathetic care practices.

Of her work, Hall states, “The process of making the books has been a powerful part of my healing. Some books have a life of their own it seems; pushing me to communicate a strong message...They help me delve into feelings I did not know I had until I listened to what the books told me… I am honored that my books are of interest to others. They have helped me heal, helped me to live fully. They will be my legacy.”

The Life and Work of Martha A. Hall is a celebration of creation and the connective and healing power of art. The exhibit will be on display until February 21, 2024.


Sydney Nguyen, Special Collections Exhibitions Coordinator