The Artist Won’t Let Us Forget


“Prince” by David Rivas

My name is Rebecca Gojkovich. I am not an artist or a teacher, but a friend who has kept in touch for over 30 years with Elmo Chattman, who is behind prison walls. Over the course of time our conversations have been many, but the common thread has always been that of art. Elmo would share his writings, chapbooks, and drawings. I, in turn, would send him books by Rumi or music by Nina Simone.

If it weren’t for his own art over these past 30 years, and the ability to appreciate the art of others, I shudder at the thought of what his life would have become behind all that concrete and steel with nothing to remind him he was human. Or the programs that brought someone like Judith Tannembaum into his life and in turn in to mine.

Society tends to turn a blind eye on the incarcerated, but the artist won’t let us forget. The artist reminds us that once we had compassion, that once, we too, made mistakes, and shoves a mirror in our face and shows us our own hypocrisy. Art humbles us and yet it gives us self worth when we discover the artist within us and no one needs a better sense of self worth than the incarcerated.

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