60wrd/min Prison Edition: PNAP | new town art


In preparation for the reviews that follow, the five incarcerated artists targeted—Juan Luna, Joseph Dole, Devon Daniels, Darrell Fair, and Michael Sullivan—submitted handwritten notes detailing, from memory, the current locations of their existing works. As is the case with incarcerated artists across the United States, who have limited access to storage in prison facilities, the products of each person’s artistic career largely reside in scattered archives held by human beings. dear beyond prison walls. Works by the five artists were borrowed from mothers and former teachers, texted to us as .jpgs by friends, and pulled from websites lovingly curated by allies on the outside.

The majority of artwork covered by Lori Waxman – art critic for the Chicago Tribune, who has agreed to write these reviews as part of her ongoing 60 wrd/min art criticism project – has been made in collaboration with the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project, a justice-focused arts and education program run by the Stateville Correctional Center, where the five artists reside. In addition to offering courses ranging from studio art and poetry to gender studies and political theory, PNAP hosts a think tank, organizes public art projects, and offers a program leading to a degree in cooperation with Northeastern Illinois University called University Without Walls.

Although all five artists work with similar material constraints, this series of artworks represent a range of individual concerns and styles. Most inevitably serve as a call against the apparatus of evil that has resulted from America’s overreliance on retributive justice. These journals and other collective projects organized by PNAP are meant to serve as a bridge between those who live behind prison walls, their home support systems, and a wider audience dedicated to a world less dependent on incarceration. (Gabrielle Christianson)

Juan Luna, Michael Sullivan and Johnny Taylor, “Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline”, 2020-21, design for a community-painted mural at the DuSable Museum

Juan Luna

There is no doubt about the causes of Juan Luna’s work: bringing back parole to Illinois, extending the vote to formerly incarcerated, getting vaccinated, ending solitary confinement, stopping deportations of ICE, know your rights. His drawings and prints are bold, their statements made with strong words and clear imagery. Their sincerity is palpable. Many feature a human touch — a hand holding the can spraying “Parole Illinois,” a woman in an apron pounding the border wall, an immigrant standing in front of an official — because these are humans whose lives are at stake. Even the campaign Luna’s “Get Vaxxed” involves her, complete with a spiky pink-ribbon combination that, if it wasn’t pencil on paper, would be tattooed on a bicep. These are messages that need to be spoken and need to be spoken out loud. Fortunately, some are. Luna’s co-designed image of an African-American student literally breaking the pipeline between school and prison in his young hands was painted by community members as an exterior mural at the DuSable Museum in 2021. Colorful and literate with a college flair, the backpack-carrying child stands at the vanishing point of a row of lockers and a wall of cell bars. I challenge anyone not to care.

Lori Waxman, 2022-08-29 14:12

Joseph Dole, “A Room with a ‘View’”, 2021, acrylic on cardboard, 12 x 16 inches

Joseph Dole

Life imprisonment is one of the great cruelties of American civilization. So grotesque that it is almost unimaginable, if it ever needs to be rectified, it must first be visualized, a task that Joe Dole, co-founder of Parole Illinois and prisoner for nearly twenty-five years, accomplishes through works of art. activists of diverse emotional affect. . It can be funny, as in a trio of bold posters criticizing former Cook County District Attorney Anita Alvarez, in which she buries “FOIA,” the Freedom of Information Act, and features a placard of janitorial filled with bottles of “white wash” and a trash can. full of “police responsibility”. It can be powerfully lucid, as in a pair of infographics that pull together gruesome data on prison population increases since Illinois abolished parole in 1978. It can be heartbreaking, as in a hand-drawn animation. hand, from the multi-artist “Freedom/Time,” featuring an aging and dying man behind bars while outside, his daughter grows up, marries, and hands a baby back to prison. And, in a painting which depicts his cell view – an endless grid of bars over barbed wire over more bars, with small sky-blue squares visible at the top – Dole echoes the jazz of Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” with his very own indomitable lyricism.

Lori Waxman, 2022-08-30 14:00

Devon Daniels, “Nipsey Hussle (Motivate)”, 2020, graphite on crescent board, 15 x 20 inches

Devon Daniels

Is there a more intimate medium for portraiture than pencil on paper? I think this is true for sketches and caricatures, but especially for photorealistic drawings, where every pore of skin, every strand of hair, bears witness to the artist’s careful observation and intentional mark. Consider the work of Devon Daniels, who discovered drawing while incarcerated and continues to practice it after twenty-five years inside. His likenesses to Kerry James Marshall, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Nipsey Hussle and Malcolm X reveal respect and affinity on the part of the artist, as evidenced by the time, patience and care required to execute such meticulous images. . To make an image in this style is to express admiration or devotion through graphite, just as Charles White did for his African American subjects, just as Vija Celmins does for the night sky. Daniels, much like Celmins, must portray his beloved subjects from a distance – he behind bars, she able to see but never touch the sky – but in the act of representation, that distance is hopefully at the less partially, broken.

Lori Waxman, 2022-08-31 12:13pm

Darrell Fair, “After Death Poem”, 2021, graphite, ink and acrylic paint on paper, approximately 9 x 12 inches

Darrell’s Fair

What does an individual, bound by tough-on-crime laws to serve 50 years of his sentence, have to offer behind bars? Through his works, Darrell Fair contributes to a large and diverse community. Inspired by the devastating poetry of Jumah al Dossari, a Bahraini citizen unjustly detained for five years in Guantanamo, Fair has drawn an optimistic counter-image, imagining the tender reunion of an incarcerated man and his long-lost wife, clutching the each other in a landscape from anywhere. repeating patterns. Moved by the experience of a cellmate, who watched a deadly hostage situation involving his daughter unfold on TV news – and was later denied permission to attend her funeral – Fair drew by hand an animation sequence that explains the heartbreaking alienation of being cut off from the family. And in two co-designed, community-painted murals, he brings the most meaningful neighborhood improvement: in North Lawndale, a reminder that strong kids are the “faces of hope”; in Washington Park, a tribute to Dr. Margaret Burroughs who insists, through Fair’s image of a spiral clock, that the time – for justice, for community, for beauty – is now.

Lori Waxman, 2022-09-02 12:57pm

Michael Sullivan, “Peace and War, the Twin Siblings”, 2021, ink on paper, 11 x 14 inches

Michael Sullivan

The meaning of a still life is traditionally communicated via standardized symbolic elements. These can be learned in an art history class, of course, but many can be guessed at just by looking, thinking, and feeling. Mike Sullivan draws and paints tender and poignant still lifes, images whose meaning is complicated by the fact that he was locked up for more than thirty years, during which time he earned school diplomas and helped draft the project. of House Bill 2541, which provides for non-partisan voter education as part of the IDOC exit process. A basket of freshly picked apples, the leaves still green, so carefully sketched in colored pencil; a vase of cut flowers, in full bloom, gently painted in oils; two happy, embracing grandchildren, painstakingly engraved in pencil – Sullivan can touch these familiar subjects, share them, know them through the picture plane of the work, but not directly with his own hands. And hands are vital: for everyone, but especially for an artist, a feeling that Sullivan unceremoniously depicts in a pointillist style, inking a pair of palms, deeply scarred, their wounds joining to form the symbol of peace . As wounds, given enough time, care, and resources, can.

Lori Waxman, 06/09/2022 14:04

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