Voices from Solitary: Art from Tennessee’s Death Row

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Donald Middlebrooks, “Midnight” (acrylic on canvas board)

A show currently running at the Sarratt Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee, features artwork created by prisoners on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. According to the description of the show:

The art seeks to convey the prison environment and to explore possibilities for living, thinking, working, and creating while on death row.  This show grows out of a weekly philosophy discussion group facilitated by Dr. Lisa Guenther of the Vanderbilt Philosophy Department, in which prisoners and volunteers meet to discuss work by Plato, Martin Luther King, Michelle Alexander, and others.  This art exhibition is the result of our collective effort to expand the discussion beyond the prison walls and beyond the language of philosophy.

Several of the pieces, reproduced below, directly address the reality of life in long-term solitary confinement, which all of the artists have experienced. For more details about the show, additional samples of artwork, and links to poems, essays, and stories by the men on Death Row, click here. For more information on Vanderbilt University’s “A Year of Rethinking Prisons,” of which this show is a part, click here. For Lisa Guenther’s writing on solitary confinement, click here.

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Derrick Quintero, “If My Journey Were a Book Title,” Parts 1 and 2 (mixed media. The doll’s head is molded from a kind of papier-mache made from toilet paper and glue.)

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Richard Odom, “Crying Dove,” inside and outside views

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Kennath Artez Henderson, “Solitary Confinement” (pencil on paper)

 

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Harold Wayne Nichols, “Prison: Outside the Box” (foam board, paint, balsa wood, mirror, collage. When you peer through the window and “pie flap” of this diorama, you see your own face in the mirror, surrounded by images of Wayne’s family and friends, which are pasted in a collage behind the door.)

Comments

  1. The art work is wonderful. Beauty from so much pain.

  2. Great artwork.

  3. Julie Guthrie says:

    So touching…thanks to all the artists and coordinators for this program that can only lift our nation to the mountaintop.

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