Inside & Out Exhibition Spotlight: Karim Shuquem, Lesley Rae Burdick, and Edee Allynnah

For a deeper look at some of the incredible pieces in JAC’s inaugural online exhibition, Inside & Out: Photorealists to Minimalists, JAC spoke with featured artists Karim Shuquem, Lesley Rae Burdick, and Edee Allynnah.

Amid growing calls for transformative justice and the abolition of our country’s criminal legal system, artists can play a unique role in envisioning and implementing new ways of approaching conflict, building community, and fostering healing. With so many art shows canceled in the past year, we recognize the critical importance of continuing to provide a platform for artists in and around the carceral system and are excited to carry on this mission through JAC’s unique virtual exhibition.

From abstract paintings to computer-animated video units and everything in between, Inside & Out features over 70 pieces of art from over 30 artists, reflecting the broad range of styles, media, and subject matter that inspire systems-impacted and allied artists. Nearly half of the featured artists are currently incarcerated, while the others are formerly incarcerated artists, independent artists, or teaching artists who work to facilitate art programming inside. At a time of global crisis, the artists are generously donating some or all of the profits from the sale of their original work to JAC, helping to sustain our mission of harnessing the transformative power of the arts to reimagine justice. JAC is grateful to have found support in our network of artists both inside and out. 

View the virtual gallery online at Tour the exhibition using the 3D virtual gallery feature, learn more about the artists, or look through the pieces in the gallery.

Karim Shuquem

JAC: How did you become involved in this work? What was your path to where you are today? 

Karim Shuquem: My path to where I am today started with a publication called MaximumRocknRoll. I became interested in punk rock as a 9th grader in high school and would go to the local record store on the weekends to buy records and get MaximumRocknRoll every month. I would read it from cover to cover, laying on my bed in my room. I loved to read the scene reports and see what was going on in different punk scenes around the world. I loved the interviews with bands, artists, activists. These kids were creating culture and sharing it with others. The culture was also imbued with an ethics of doing it yourself (not feeding the corporate machine). Along with the DIY ethic, there were also discussions in the pages of that zine about issues like racism, sexism, animal rights, etc. What I learned from this magazine was that you can actively create the world you’d like to live in. 

Inspired by this magazine, MRR, I started producing my own zine in high school, and meeting lots of people through this medium. This led to me organizing concerts, organizing protests, and putting out records. After a while I started playing in bands as well.

I’ve always been an artist… and I’ve always been an artist that’s interested in networks of support or community between creators. That network could be a zine, or a workshop, a school, a club, a gallery, a community art studio, a record store / info shop, or a radio station or podcast. I’ve been involved in all of these forms of connection during my time as an artist. 

Currently I’ve been developing a program called Graphic Non-Violence, that uses education for these purposes. We give workshops on activist printmaking and also design graphic illustrations for organizations that inspire us. 

JAC: How have your students impacted your art and creative process? 

KS: Facilitating others in process is a way for me to create art in community with others. I love the challenge of figuring out how to contribute to somebody else’s vision. This process helps me to clarify my own vision. Helping others find their way in a practice helps me to strategize my entry point. 

I teach independently and I’m able to choose topics that interest me. With my workshops, I’ve chosen to engage with political graphics. I’m interested in that because I think it’s a beautiful challenge to create a call to action that is original and captivating. With my students that I see on a regular basis I’ve chosen to engage with comics as a topic of interest. I like graphic novels a lot, so taking on the topic with my students is a way for me to learn the language for myself. 

JAC: Could you speak a bit about your pieces in the exhibition? What was your inspiration / process?

KS: These are all prints or include printmaking in the process: 

Applied Ignorance was my first reduction linocut done in printmaking class at Cal State Hayward. I was drawing studies for an album cover design for the debut album of my band The Phantom Limbs. Our album Applied Ignorance came out on Alternative Tentacles records in 2001. We ended up using a pastel drawing rather than the print for the album cover. 

Underwood (the one with the skull) was also done while taking a printmaking class (as extra credit). I had a vision in my head for a few days of a skull attached to a vintage typewriter and created a collage, then a linoleum-cut of it. 

Blue Shadow is a mix of a few processes. I had made a few prints of one of the crates from the Die Kunstkammer sculpture ( One of the prints was done on a piece of long mat board. After making the print I coated it in cyanotype fluid and hung it on a chain link fence. After it dried, I enhanced the pattern of the chain link fence with white paint and the black of the woodcut with black ink. The reference image for the woodcut print is a high-contrast photo of a woman standing by the blinds in her room. The photo strongly emphasizes the shadows cast by the blinds. I work with shadow imagery a lot on the carvings of the Kunstkammer sculpture, as I use that sculpture to explore ideas related to the nature of substance and matter. 

JAC: Is there anything else you would like to share about your art or yourself? 

KS: My project Graphic Non-Violence is in the process of creating fundraiser tee shirts for an inspirational program in New Orleans called Trumpet is My Weapon. I’ve been raising funds, so that I can send them as many tee shirts as possible. After I’m done with this project, I’d like to find other organizations or inspirational people to partner with or make graphics for, so get in touch!! 

Lesley Rae Burdick

JAC: What is your background in art? What inspires you to create?

Lesley Rae Burdick: Honestly, I stumbled upon my artistic talent (later discovering I come from a family of artists). [My partner] Jonathan and myself were looking for something to do to help find some form of sanity in the craziness of our situation. We actually started with beadwork, a close friend offered some Rembrandt pastels to try out. Beadwork was great for the moment, along with crochet, yet my spark started with deciding to paint a portrait. I was so shocked at how well it came out, freehand and all, that I began to dedicate myself to creating more. We also realized that we were able to escape the negativity around us, and release the held up emotions through artistic expression. Then four pastel artists volunteered to paint a couple of murals on the walls for the photo room. We all shocked ourselves at how fun and well it turned out. This is where Jonathan started his passion for acrylics. We later ended up teaching art in our own mediums.

Edee Allynnah

JAC: What is your background in art? What inspires you to create?

Edee Allynnah: My background in art is due to it, art, bein’ a place where I could be alone, comfortable and at peace, and find joy, happiness, and pleasure. Where I wasn’t picked upon, teased, made fun of by all the rest of the children. I was the freak, weirdo, sissy, fag, so on, the effeminate little boy who didn’t feel like a boy. The one never chosen by either side for games on the playground. The one who answered, “I want to be a Mommie” when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, that everyone laughed at, even the teacher. My safe place, escape to, was into art. 

JAC: Could you speak a bit about your piece in JAC’s exhibition. What was your inspiration / process?

EA: What inspires me to create? A lot of it is this really and truly amazin’ man, Jameson Taylor, who’s in my life, who is my life. He’s always inquirin’, “tell me, I want to know” and it brings all in mind, memories to the surface, to the forefront of the imagination/expression.

The piece in the exhibition, the transfemale bitin’ her bottom lip, is like, there are so many instances in a Transgal’s life where you’re just biting your lip in the various frustrations encountered daily throughout one’s life. I do so, often. Imagine a fully passable as female before the clerk/cashier/whomever who asks for identification. You produce the I.D. and they’re lookin you over, the male name and male sex identity there, the manager is called to have a check/look see. The lip is bein’ bitten. Applyin’ for employment? The lip is bein’ bitten. Oh, geez, any transfemale knows, understands. Desperation, despair, distress, embarrassment, shame, sorrow, sadness. See?

JAC: Is there anything else you would like to share about your art or yourself?

EA: I’d like to share this…. What does it do, cause in you, the viewer, what do you think of, what do you feel? It’s yours, to stir within you, to connect with yourself. How does it touch you, your life? What sayin’ would you place with it printed upon a shirt you’d wear? What statement does it make you want to make?

Thank you all for allowin’ me to share with you. I’m honored and appreciate you all. Love, peace, prosperity, and tranquility to everyone, world ‘round. 

View Karim, Lesley, and Edee’s amazing work and the rest of the Inside & Out exhibition here

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