Friday, January 25 at 6:00 pm

Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America

Ronnie White, “Vuarnet”

Artist, educator, and author of Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America (Princeton), Phyllis Kornfeld presents a slide talk on the art of prisoners, a surprising collection of images and art forms that reveal this unseen culture and the faces of its inhabitants.  She has been conducting visual arts programs in prisons and curating exhibitions of the work for 29 years – so far.

Focusing on recent work born in the penitentiary, her talk will explore the range of production from mainstream prison art, with its reliance on tattoo imagery, to “folk arts” like soap carving, to powerful drawings and paintings by outstanding individual artists. She quotes men and women in institutions from county jail to death row. They are candid and insightful about their lives, their art, and their imprisonment.

The paintings, drawings, and objects shown in the slide talk demonstrate dramatically that prisoners have the same potential for good or evil as the rest of us, and the capability, even the inclination, to act out of their highest impulses. For students of art and culture, psychology and philosophy, and human consciousness, the question emerges—how is it that this depth and beauty came from, or through, these particular folks—uneducated, unworldly, untrained.

Kornfeld will also point to a new direction whereby  incarcerated people are given the opportunity to reach out to people in need on the outside—projects that inspire them, through their art,  to join the rest of us in looking out for one another.

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