While many prisoners use art to escape from the anguish or tedium of life behind bars, Vernon Bernard Patrick’s drawings and collages (created from whatever comes to hand: cornflakes, shampoo, toothpaste, magazine photos, cereal boxes) constitute one long anguished cry of pain, shot through with moments of brilliance and humor and often incorporating writing. While others spend weeks and even months carefully rendering images in exquisite detail, Patrick (“B. Pat”) works quickly and boldly, in a style that’s reminiscent of the late graffiti artist Basquiat.
In his very first letter to curator Victoria Tierney, Bernard announced:
“I AM 6′, 4″ and 300 lbs; I am crammed into this little 7 x 5 foot cell. It’s awful, hideously synchronized with descended anguish and chaos. I would be interested in giving you some works for show.”
Thus began an outpouring of over 100 works, some hurried scribbles, other carefully constructed quite amazing works of art by a brilliant but deeply troubled artist.