In the year 2011, “TIME- A Statewide Traveling Show of Oregon Prison Art” , traveled to 10 different venues throughout the state of Oregon, showcasing over 80 works of art, both two and three dimensional, created by 19 artists incarcerated in Oregon state prisons. Below you will find the story about the show that appeared in the online newsletter of THE ARTS CENTER in Corvallis (where the show traveled in April) as well as the text that accompanied the show of “OREGON PRISON ART” at the Coos Art Museum in 2009-10; the idea for a show called “TIME” grew out of the Coos Art Museum show.
Bandon Public Library
SAGE GALLERY – Bandon
THE ARTS CENTER – Corvallis
MINDPOWER GALLERY – Reedsport
Four Rivers Cultural Center
PENDLETON & ATHENA
Betty Feves Memorial Gallery -Blue Mountain Community College- Pendleton
Athena Public Library
NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
Old City Hall -Coquille
U.S. Bank -Coquille
VICTORIA TIERNEY ON THE CREATION OF AN EXHIBIT OF OREGON PRISON ART (Click to Expand/Collapse)
The idea for a show of Prison Art was originally suggested in 2002 by the late Rosalie Wilson, while she was serving on the board of the Coos Art Museum.
In 2008 I was approached by Barry Joyce of Lampa Mountain Sweat Lodge. He was working with a group called RED LODGE TRANSITION SERVICES which tries to help imprisoned Native Americans in making a successful transition back into the “outside” world. They were trying to raise funds for a “half-way house” for Native American women being released from Coffee Creek. Toward that end, Native American prisoners from all the facilities in Oregon were invited to donate works of art which would then be matted and framed and sold throughout the state. I agreed to have a show of these works at the Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center, where I have been in charge of four exhibits a year since 2000.
The quality of the work was variable, but some was so astoundingly good that I approached the Coos Art Museum with the idea for a show to include not only Native Americans but all prisoners currently serving time in Oregon State Prisons.
Originally we thought about having this as a juried show, but we learned that once a prisoner sends original art out of the prison it becomes “contraband” and cannot be sent back. So we changed our approach, and invited several of the Native Americans whose work was the finest, as well as artists whose work was on display at the Department of Corrections Headquarters in Salem, a building called “The Dome” on Central Street. Two years ago they initiated a contest for art works, expecting perhaps 50 submissions. Instead they received 365 entries, and the quality of the work was extraordinary.
After selecting what I thought were the most interesting artists, I began a process of letter-writing, and shared the poster from the earlier show, so that they would understand that this was a bona fide exhibition. (Issues of trust are very delicate in the prison system.)
In addition to the four Native Americans (Jeffrey Handsome Dog Cree, Dirk Davenport, Kha Che-Chee, and Joseph LeFever) this show includes works by 14 other artists. The works represent 6 of the 13 facilities in Oregon. Two of the inmates have been released since the inception of this show, but their works are included. Many of these men had never tried to draw before finding themselves serving time. For most the materials are the simplest: paper, pencils, ball point pens. A few with access to the hobby shop at Oregon State Penitentiary have worked in acrylics, tempera paints, and pastels.
The men responded with such enthusiasm that we received more work than could fit into the MABEL HANSEN GALLERY here at the museum (Coos Bay Art Museum). After seeing samples of the work, BLACK MARKET GOURMET agreed to show the overflow pieces at their establishment at 495 Central. Don’t miss this part of the show!
As the works began to arrive, we were struck by the extraordinary attention to detail in a great many of the pieces, and it set me pondering about the meaning of TIME. These men have been “given time” quite literally; they are “doing time” and “serving time”. For many the challenge to make some use of that time is the greatest challenge they face. Their greatest hope is that these years of their lives will not have been entirely wasted. Having the opportunity to present you with this show has been very special for them, and any feedback you might want to offer would be most appreciated. A book is provided for your comments.
Victoria Tierney/ curator
* Prison Art Show curator Victoria Tierney, has been corresponding with Oregon Prison artists and mounting prison art shows since 2008.
Article from The Art Center (Click to Expand/Collapse)
The Arts Center hosts a travelling exhibit from April 6 – 27 of work by inmates from the Oregon Correctional System. The exhibit is the initiative of Victoria Tierney, who came to The Arts Center with the idea of the exhibit, and we didn’t hesitate to sign on. Tierney had curated prison art exhibits in Coos Bay and Coquille before, and wanted to expand on the idea and success of the first 2008 prison show. The idea started with the board of the Coos Art Museum, but Tierney only felt motivated to do it when her own son, a musician, was incarcerated. “Then I knew at least one artist in prison.”
The exhibit is named “Time”; a concept that plays a big role in the lives of inmates. They are “given time”, “doing time”; “serving time”, which means they have a lot of time to fill. Tierney would like to see that good use is being made of this time: “I’d like to encourage these people to have a focus, so they can do something with this time they’ve been given.” The Bandon Western World writes that Paul Tice, program Coordinator for Restorative Justice Through the Arts and an ex-inmate himself, believes that Tierney’s work is an important part of the process by which offenders can take responsibility for their actions by giving back to the community. Art sales help support the cost of art supplies and benefit organizations that serve at-risk youth. According to Tice some inmates will develop art careers and some will use art as a coping mechanism while they are in prison.
Tierney corresponded with and collected art from inmates all over Oregon; she has found an enormous variety within the work: “There is such a range, from beautiful pictures of animals and nature to pretty out-there, raunchy, unfettered, fettered art.”
Mounting a large show of this sort, and transporting it from location to location, is a major undertaking. Curator Victoria Tierney would particularly like to thank the following for making it possible:
THE CELEBRATION FOUNDATION, the Toribio Family foundation based in Portland, which funded the show in 2010 and renewed the funding in 2011, making it possible to create this website.
Sally Houck, director of the Newport Visual Arts Center in Nye Beach, who not only came down to Bandon at the end of February to load the show into her Suburban, but then loaned us that vehicle over and over again, so that we could transport the show to Corvallis, to Reedsport, and to Ontario; a generosity way beyond the call of duty!
FOUR RIVERS CULTURAL CENTER in Ontario (where SNAKE RIVER CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION is located) for using some of the funds they had received from the Oregon Cultural Trust to help bring the show to and from Ontario.
THE PORT OF BANDON for lending three dimensional works created by the prisoners at SHUTTER CREEK, when the Hobby Shop at O.S.P. in Salem was temporarily closed down, and the planned-for works were not available.
The DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS arts program director SUSAN ROBERTS for her unfailing co-operation in helping us connect with the artists in the prison system. These shows would have been impossible without her help.
All the venues who co-operated in the undertaking:
- SAGE GALLERY -Bandon
- Bandon Public Library
- Newport Visual Arts Center
- Hatfield Library – Willamette University -Salem
- THE ARTS CENTER – Corvallis
- MINDPOWER GALLERY – Reedsport
- FOUR RIVERS CULTURAL CENTER – Ontario
- Betty Feves Memorial Gallery – Blue Mountain Community College – Pendleton
- Athena Public Library
- Old City Hall Gallery – Coquille
The Institute of Continued Learning at Willamette University for inviting curator Victoria Tierney to give a Powerpoint presentation about the show.
Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, for inviting Tierney to give a Powerpoint presentation about the show one night (for the inmates) and then arranging to have the inmates return to next night with art works of their own. Although we had never seen works by these men before, it is our hope to soon include some of these artists in our “Gallery of Artists” on this website.