The “LIFER” show at Old City Hall in Coquille (October 2010 through January 2011) featured the works of just two prisoners, David Drenth of Oregon State Penitentiary (O.S.P.) in Salem, and Jerome Sloan of Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, both incarcerated very young (Sloan at 19 and Drenth at 21) and both serving life sentences. Nella Abbott had discovered David Drenth’s work in the OREGON PRISON ART show which was shown jointly at the Coos Art Museum and the Black Market Gourmet Deli and Gallery (December 2009 – February 2010.) She and her husband Steve Abbott, a trial lawyer, fell in love with David’s work, bought two large pieces, and wanted to show more of his work at the Old City Hall in Coquille. (The Abbott’s bought the 1912 City Hall building several years ago and are transforming it into a gathering place for the community.) When Nella saw photographs of Jerome Sloan’s “GOD & EVOLUTION” series, most of it done with 2-inch “soft” ball-point pens (the kind that cannot be used as weapons) while he was in solitary confinement at Snake River, she decided to include a second artist in the show. Working with curator Victoria Tierney, Nella originally planned to call the show “The Beginning of TIME”, as it was intended as a “kick-off” for the statewide traveling show of prison art slated for 2011, but when they noticed that both men were serving life sentences, the decision was made to call the show “LIFER”. The show received full page coverage in the Coos Bay “WORLD” and other publications. Abbott, who writes a column for the local Coquille paper, THE COQUILLE SENTINEL, wrote several stories about the plight of prisoners in this country, and the stories of Drenth and Sloan in particular. Posters declaring “BUILD PEOPLE, NOT PRISONS” were mounted throughout the building. Works by Sloan and Drenth are still housed at Old City Hall in Coquille, having returned there after the statewide traveling show in 2011.
David Drenth sent Nella Abbott this photograph of himself to accompany the “LIFER” show. David Drenth is at O.S.P. in Salem. All inquiries about his work should go to Nella Abbott who is acting as his agent. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office phone is: 541-824-0777
This photo of Jerome Sloan was taken in 2010, when the artist was 36. His roots include black, white, and Native American cultures. A son, conceived after his arrest but before his incarceration, is now in his teens. Since Jerome is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole, he uses the proceeds from sales of his art to help support his son.