Prisoners escape through art

Michael J. Gathany II
Arts & Life Correspondent

courtesy of The Times-Tribune DOMINIC VINCENZO sculpted “Released by Death” with only toilet paper and toothpaste. He is one of many prisoners who use limited materials to create artwork.

courtesy of The Times-Tribune
DOMINIC VINCENZO sculpted “Released by Death” with only toilet paper and toothpaste. He is one of many prisoners who use limited materials to create artwork.

Art has been a form of expression for thousands of years. In the prehistoric era, people would draw and paint to tell stories. It was the first form of written communication between people; it told each person’s story. To this day people still use art to express many things, from what is going on in their minds to the mundane tasks they do every day. Everyone can make art; in fact, even prisoners do. On the fourth floor of Hyland Hall, you can see some of this prison art first-hand.

Phyllis Kornfield, author, artist and teacher, has been working with incarcerated men and women for 30 years. Since 1983, she has been working with inmates to help them tap their creative potential and find a constructive way to spend their time.
In the exhibit there is work from many different artists on display. Those who go to the exhibit can see many different types of art, from ballpoint pen used on handkerchiefs to large intricate paintings. There are even some sculptures done with toothpaste and toilet paper. There are also many meanings behind the pictures. Some of them are purely just doodles that the inmates do in their free time while others express deep traumatic experiences.

For those interested in 3-D art, there are multiple sculptures to see. The “Released by Death” sculpture done by Dominic Vincenzo is a beautiful model made from toilet paper and toothpaste that depicts an old man being released from his mortal body through death by overdose. The title “Released by Death” made the sculpture even more powerful. According to Kornfield, the sculpture deals with when prisoners die in prison. She said that when a prisoner dies inside, they say the prisoner was released by death. This idea of a release can speak to anyone.

For those more interested in beautiful, powerful murals, there are multiple paintings by Arthur Keigney. His artwork brings to light how the prisoners are treated poorly. People on the outside do not think about it often, but his paintings bring deep meaning as to how the prisoners are marginalized by the corrections officers.

Another artist that anyone can relate to is John Harvey. Harvey’s paintings are very biblical in their meaning, but viewers can still relate to them. One specific work worth looking at is his painting “A Fool Returns to His Folly.” This painting can describe what many go through, whether it be an addiction to a drug or even something generally harmful in one’s life from which one cannot seem to stay away.

 

March 6, 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *