Kenneth Reams: Workshop and Art Auction

JAC is proud to feature the work of Kenneth Reams, an artist and activist who has been incarcerated on death row for twenty-seven years. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and in order to raise money for his ongoing fight for freedom, Kenneth is auctioning off this 8.5″ x 11″ framed portrait of MLK Jr, done in graphite on acid-free paper (above). The auction will end on Friday, January 22nd at 5pm PST so be sure to check it out soon! More information and instructions for how to enter can be found here.

“The Last Mile” by Kenneth Reams

We have also had the honor of hosting Kenneth for our online workshop series Create + Connect: In The Box with Kenneth Reams, and we welcome you to join us on Thursday, January 28th at 4pm PST for week 5 of the series. Come, enter the Box, and join the conversation around the intersection of law, activism, and the transformative powers of the arts. From the confines of solitary confinement, Kenneth hosts interviews, entertains, and reshapes the narrative with some of the nation’s leading criminal justice activists, lawyers, and artists. Register here.

“Kenneth ‘Artist927’ Reams” by Kenny Reams

In 1993, Kenneth Reams was an unarmed accomplice to a robbery that resulted in a fatality. Like so many, Reams was represented in court by a public defender. He was offered a plea bargain but refused to plead guilty, and at the age of 18, he became the youngest person sentenced to death by lethal injection in Arkansas. Kenneth Reams did not kill anyone, and yet he remains in solitary confinement without human contact to this day. Despite living in solitary confinement for the past 27 years, Reams has cultivated his practice as an artist, a poet, a writer, and the founder of the nonprofit organization Who Decides, Inc. Who Decides, Inc. is a national network of activists and volunteers working to educate the general public about the practice and history of capital punishment in the United States through various mediums of art. You can learn more about Kenneth on his website: http://www.freekennethreams.org

An attendee of one of Kenneth’s previous Create + Connect workshops reflected on the event:

“This workshop had a profound impact on me. This was my first window into seeing art as a vehicle and voice for incarcerated people. I was moved by Kenneth Reams’ personal story of perseverance… To witness incarcerated people creating the most profound and thought-provoking work with anything they can get their hands on in the most oppressive and restrictive conditions left me speechless and inspired.”

In next week’s workshop, Kenneth will be joined by Wanda Best, the Community Resource Developer for the domestic violence programs at Volunteers of America (VOA) of Greater New York. Wanda is also the founder and CEO of Art Transforms, Inc., a non-profit organization formed to bring art to communities of color. As a community activist she was one of the lead plaintiffs in the campaigns to reduce the cost of collect calls made by New York State prisoners to loved ones and the campaign to restore the right to vote to formerly incarcerated people on parole and probation in New York State. She is an artist painting the prison experience through the eyes of the families with incarcerated loved ones.

“Solitary” by Kenneth Reams

Much of Kenneth’s art is dedicated to illustrating the history and practice of capital punishment, and he also frequently depicts leaders in the civil rights movement and others who fight against racial and state violence. You can view more of Kenneth’s work on his website and in his portfolio.

If you’d like to support Kenny with a donation, you can do so here:
Venmo – @micah-herskind
Cashapp – @SK927
Paypal – reams.kenny@gmail.com

We hope you will join us next Thursday for Create + Connect: In The Box with Kenneth Reams as well as consider participating in the auction of Kenny’s beautiful artwork. 

“Capitalization” by Kenneth Reams

Artist Spotlight: Derrick Grantley

by Joslyn Lapinski, JAC Intern

At just 15 years old, Derrick Grantley was incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. At 17, he was placed into solitary confinement, where he has remained for 21 consecutive years. “With no end in sight, I am still fighting my case in the court,” Derrick tells us. Day after day, there is temptation to lose hope, but Derrick holds his head high and continues to advocate for justice, both for himself and for others.

Derrick’s fighting spirit shows not only through his attitude and actions, but most of all – it shines through his words. In 2003, Derrick discovered songwriting and poetry, and in doing so, found solace from the overwhelming stress and depression that had been taking over his life since the start of his sentence. Derrick explains that he uses writing “as a way to express indignation against the injustices I see or experience myself.” He channels the anger and dissent he feels into poetry, and the results are incredibly powerful.

Derrick focuses his poetry on what is happening in the world around him. He writes about racial injustice, America’s political climate, COVID in prisons, and other poignant issues. He only writes about the topics that truly light a fire within him. It is this genuine passion behind his words that make his poems so impactful. Every one of his poems is written with conviction, intensity, and zeal. 

I can only write when I am caught up in the event at the moment in time. I have to be feeling the situation deep inside my bones and spirit, or else I can’t write about it.

Derrick takes his time to really think about what he wants to write before he gets it onto paper. Because of this, the pandemic has not hindered his creative process, but rather it has given him more topics to write about and more time to really sit and reflect on them. He has more fuel for his mental fire and more time to kindle it. Below is a poem called “Quarantine Wonders” that Derrick wrote to express his frustrations during the pandemic.

Will I live or will I die?
Is the question that I ask!
Co-vid 19, is in prisons,
on the attack
We were giving 2 mask
One soap, that’s it
For 7 months straight
I’ve been wearing the same s**t
Most officers walk thru,
with their face uncovered
Coughing and sneezing,
Everyday I’m worried
I know if I catch it,
my chance to recover,
As a Black man in the system
Is 1 out of a hundred!

What keeps Derrick going, even through the hardships he faces in solitary, is the fact that he is able to inspire others through his writing. He loves being able to share his work and to know that it is reaching people. “Receiving letters and feedback from people in the free world motivates me, and makes me proud to see that people are genuinely appreciative of my work. Knowing that there are some people who really care about people on the inside, also helps to inspire and motivate me to keep writing.”

You can view Derrick Grantley’s portfolio here. If you would like to view more artists’ work and provide direct feedback, please attend our virtual ArtLinks event! If you are interested in connecting with an artist experiencing incarceration, please sign up for our pARTner Project! 

Nate Fish: Brick of Gold

JAC recently spoke with Nate Fish, founder of the Brick of Gold Publishing Company. Brick of Gold publishes the art and writing of incarcerated people and offers art, copy, direction, design, video, and print services. Since 2016, they’ve published three books containing work from incarcerated artists. 

Words Uncaged, 128-G: Art and Writing from a California State Prison is Brick of Gold’s most recent book, a collection of art and writing from inmates at Calipatria State Prison in Southern California. “What you have in your hands is not only a collection of art but a collection of voices,” says Joel Baptiste, one of the inmates. “[We] have amazing stories to share if you’re willing to look and listen.” 

128-G consists of scans of original artifacts from inside Calipatria – drawings on paper, napkins, and other found materials, typed and handwritten letters, birthday cards, and powerful photos from filmmaker Danny Dwyer. All the material in 128-G comes from Words Uncaged, a non-profit organization running art and writing programs in several California prisons.

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

NF: I started Brick of Gold in 2016. I never intended to publish art and writing from prisoners. It was just a vanity press to publish my own work and the work of friends. But my childhood friend, Ray Adornetto, was working in prisons in California for an organization called Words Uncaged. Ray sent me the work of the prisoners, and I knew right away I was going to stop publishing myself and start publishing them instead. It was just more impactful than the work professional writers were producing, myself included. We published two collections of prison writing in 2018, and just released our third book with Words Uncaged, 128-G: Art and Writing from a California State Prison. It’s broken into the artbook circuit which was one of our goals for the book. 

JAC: In considering the work of your own organization, what is unique about the programming you have been creating?

NF: Well, first, Words Uncaged deserves the credit. They are the experts, and they are the ones going into the prisons and doing the difficult work. But as for Brick of Gold and the books we’re putting out, we are trying something a little different because we are taking artbook sensibilities to prison publishing. We are basically taking what can be interpreted as gritty, outsider work and making it into beautiful artbooks. I do not think that’s been done before. We want to challenge the art establishment to include this work in their definition of what’s important, and get the books into museum shops and artbook stores so people with resources can see it. The ultimate goal is policy change, but we think we can help move the dial that direction by presenting the work this way. It is very difficult to continue denying people their humanity and liberty once you see and read the books. 

JAC: How have your students impacted your teaching practices and even your own art or creative practices? What has been the most rewarding part of your experience working with incarcerated artists?

NF: I have been writing less and editing more. I have to read and edit and art direct the books with the designers we hire and that takes a lot of time, so I have shifted a bit from writing to curating. But I still do write and publish my own work as well. I am also a visual artist. Crafting our books has definitely sharpened my ability to conceptualize large scale projects in general. I would say though that the work of the prisoners we publish has had more of an emotional impact on me than a professional impact. They’ve taught me more about being a good person than being a good artist. 

JAC: As you know, the JAC is focused on ways in which art can connect those in the prison system with those on the outside. How has this relationship been jeopardized by COVID-19? How have you been keeping connections active during this time?

NF: Yes. Words Uncaged cannot get into prisons right now, like most organizations and individuals doing this kind of work. WU runs programs in Calipatria, Lancaster, and Donovan prisons. There are outbreaks right now in Lancaster and Donovan, and a lot of the guys we work with are very sick. I keep getting messages that Joel or Jimmy or Cory are struggling. I have never even met any of the artists whose work we publish, but I feel like I know them, and it hurts to hear they’re sick. 

JAC: As we navigate this unprecedented time across our national landscape, both concerning Covid-19 and anti-racism protests, what challenges have emerged in your work with artists, specifically those who are impacted by the criminal justice system?

NF: One of the things we’ve done as a reaction to the times is put out a call for work from prisoners specifically about race in America. We want to hear about their experiences and see what solutions they have to offer. It’s important to us that in our projects we are not learning about prisoners, but are learning from prisoners, about ourselves. It’s a bit of a flip in the power dynamic we’re used to seeing with all the voyeuristic prison docs and stuff that have been coming out for decades that sort of fetishize prison. Things are magnified in prison. Every element of life is sort of laid bare, especially when it comes to race. A lot of our guys have transitioned from racist to anti-racist and we want to hear from them how they did it. We should be releasing the book on race in America in 2021. 

JAC: The Justice Arts Coalition, as it grows, will continue to seek out and implement a vision of how to better support teaching artists. In your view, what does a supportive network need to include?

NF: The prison reform scene is awesome but fragmented. There are dozens if not hundreds of orgs working on the same thing often not even knowing about one another. You guys know that better than anyone. It would be awesome to see a unifying organization, one place where all the work lived, and we got some collective bargaining power.

JAC: As our art networks look to the future, how do you hope the pandemic, as well as this period of protest, will alter the public’s understanding of the justice system?

NF: I think the protests are more impactful than the epidemic when it comes to people examining themselves and our society. If anything, the epidemic may cause people to withdraw from thinking about the pain of others because their own resources are likely diminishing. The protests in 2020 are mostly focused on police reform. That’s great. But there was not as much talk about top to bottom reform that includes prison reform. But prison reform will inevitably come back up to the top of the news cycle at some point. It is part of the national conversation and very few things if any are as glaringly in need of reform as the prison system most people agree, even conservatives. I am not a huge fan of the word reform in general. It sounds like we need to just move the line a little bit when I think we need to move it a lot. 

JAC: What led you to JAC, and how has your experience with JAC served your own work?

NF: You guys are at the forefront of bringing awareness to prison art so it didn’t take me long to track Wendy down for a call. She’s helped me get a better understanding of prison art on a national scale, because we have only worked specifically with California Prisons. JAC has a broader reach so I can learn about when and where and how prisoners are making art all over the country because I am still pretty new to this world. 

Head to the Brick of Gold website to purchase their books and learn more about what they do. Profits from 128-G go to Words Uncaged. 

A.B.O. Comix

JAC recently spoke with Casper Cendre, co-founder and director of A.B.O. Comix. A.B.O. is a collective of creators and activists who work to amplify the voices of LGBTQ prisoners through art. By working closely with prison abolitionist and queer advocacy organizations, they aim to keep queer prisoners connected to outside community and help them in the fight toward liberation. The profits A.B.O generate go back to incarcerated artists, especially those with little to no resources. Using the DIY ideology of “punk-zine” culture, A.B.O. was formed with the philosophy of mutual support, community and friendship.

A.B.O. believes our interpersonal and societal issues can be solved without locking people in cages. Their mission is to combat the culture that treats humans as disposable and disproportionately criminalizes the most marginalized amongst us. “Through artistic activism, we hope to proliferate the idea that a better world means redefining our concepts of justice.”

 

JAC: How did you become involved in this work? What was your path to where you are today? Have your views changed since then?

CC: As a teenager, I had a difficult time connecting with my peers and making friends. Coming to terms with my queer and trans identity in high school often left me feeling alienated, misunderstood and at times, even inhuman. I found an outlet through pen-palling as it seemed easier for me to write out my thoughts than it was to speak with people in person, and in my last year of high school, I found a website you could pen-pal with folks in prison. At the time, there was only one person on the website that openly identified as LGBTQ, so I sent her a letter not knowing that to this day, she would be one of my closest and dearest friends.

Writing with her became therapeutic for the both of us – we explored our intersections of feeling alienated and inhuman together, and both ended up transitioning around the same time. I learned about what life was like for queer and transgender people in prison, and all too often the degradation, abuse, sexual assault and severe neglect that they endure. She introduced me to her friends and soon I was writing with quite a few people in different prisons. Many were artists, and I quickly had a large collection of beautiful drawings, paintings and crafts that my pen-pals had sent me.

I was enamored with the beauty and creativity that manifested in spite of the bleakness of prison life, and I felt compelled to help share this art and their stories with the world. My ever-growing family behind bars helped me start to see the beauty in this world, especially in times that seem the darkest. They have helped me realize that despite the mistakes we make in this life, each one of us (with a little help and encouragement) can blossom into the best versions of ourselves and find our paths to redemption. 

JAC: In considering the work of your own organization, what is unique about the programs you have been creating?

CC: In 2017, A.B.O. Comix was started with no road map, no long-term goals or aspirations, and no general understanding of how to become the organization that we are now. Two of my friends and I set out to publish a book with our incarcerated pen-pals and get a little bit of money into their commissary account. We hadn’t seen any comic projects like this before, and had no idea how much of a positive impact it would have.

We started this project with the change in our wallets but soon had fundraised enough to open a P.O. box and buy a used perfect binding machine to painstakingly hand press our books, one copy at a time. Our hand-drawn Call for Submissions ad in the Black and Pink newspaper had our P.O. box flooded with comic storyboards and requests for information the first week. A couple months later, we were throwing our anthology release party at Classic Cars West in Oakland, with hot glue burns on our fingers and a table of hand-screened custom t-shirts with smudged ink.

After our first anthology was published featuring the comics of our incarcerated LGBTQ friends, the trajectory of A.B.O. split into different directions. One of the co-founders no longer had the capacity to continue with the project, and our other eventually moved across the country. For several years though, I’ve found my permanent home as Director of A.B.O. Comix and couldn’t imagine a better thing to dedicate my life to.

Our one-off anthology of queer prisoner’s comics has since become a project I’ve done every year. The list of 20 queer and transgender artists we write with has since become over 250. Our modest fundraising to buy some holiday gifts for people in prison became almost $40,000 donated directly to the commissary accounts of our contributors so they can afford food, art supplies, medical co-pays, gender-affirming items, phone time and legal counsel. Hundreds of letters are written a month, multiple books, anthologies and zines have been published, and I get to dedicate my work on the daily to advocating for our all our contributors for everything from internal grievances to accessing medical care to parole letters to creating artist portfolios.

This last year we created a graphic-novel making curriculum for LGBTQ prisoners, secured our own office space and art gallery, linked up hundreds of free-world people with new pen-pals in prison, helped with re-entry support for our friends getting out of prison, formed relationships with dozens of organizations to better assist our contributors, had our publications featured in college textbooks and course curriculums, and helped introduce the world to the amazing creativity of so many of our incarcerated community members.

Our incarcerated community has helped me aspire to so much more for this coming year: to grow this into an organization that can hire on our formerly incarcerated contributors when they come home; to expand to a retail storefront where we can publicly display all of the art and publications we have collaborated on; to start up our own podcast featuring interviews with our contributors; to become a national collective that eliminates gate-keeping from the publishing industry; and help create thousands of published artists inside prison with vast more opportunities and credentials.

JAC: Have your experiences with creating in prison influenced environments influenced the way you approach your own art and projects?

CC: Although we collaborate exclusively through mail and phone-calls with our contributors in prison and I’ve met very few of our contributors in person, I’ve re-learned the power that small acts of kindness and encouragement can have on a person’s growth and mental, spiritual and psychological well-being. While many of the people we correspond with were already accomplished artists, many more had never attempted a comic before and didn’t consider themselves artists at all.

In encouraging others to try a new craft, no matter what came out of the other side of their pen, it has motivated me to try new mediums myself. Previously, I considered myself only capable of writing creatively, but I now have more faith in myself to try other things just for the fun of it. I have learned how much art can be therapy, and that it is equally about self-expression and manifesting your emotions into reality as it is about creating something lasting and visually appealing.

Our contributors encourage and motivate me every day, and I can only work as hard as humanly possible to repay the kindness.

JAC: How do you think your program affects participants? Have you felt that art influences a person’s self-image or worth, while they are incarcerated? What other impacts do you hope your organization have had on individuals, both incarcerated and not?

CC: Our contributors have become the siblings I never had, and we get each other through the hardest days and uplift & celebrate with each other on the best ones. Some of our artists have been through the darkest moments imaginable, and struggled with self-harm, mental illness, and suicidal thoughts/attempts. But now they have, maybe for the first time, a community to rely on. I have seen many people grow and gain a new sense of accomplishment.

Art is a vehicle for our contributors to express what they may not be able to in words, and becoming published artists with credentials, awards, and their work for sale in art shows has given them something they’ve never had before.  

The voices and artwork of our family in prison has reached so many people on the outside, through newspapers, podcasts, college courses and libraries. We have helped introduce the concept of prison reform and even abolition to countless people around the world, and inspired many to bridge connections and strengthen our communities. I am immensely proud of the openness and vulnerability that our friends in prison have shared with us through their stories, and hope that their work will encourage and help so many others. 

JAC: What has been the most rewarding part of your experience working with incarcerated artists and actors?

CC: The most rewarding part of my experience working with incarcerated artists has been the friendships I have gained. I have gotten the unique opportunity to get to talk with people from all different backgrounds, places of origin, ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities and ideologies. Everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to offer, and I am humbled and honored to get to learn what they have to share.

I have learned the life stories – the mistakes and the triumphs – of mothers and fathers, military veterans, business owners, entrepreneurs, engineers, occultists, scientists, and conspiracy theorists. I have gotten the chance to befriend believers and skeptics, Democrats and Republicans (and a healthy dose of Anarchists), immigrants and those who have family lineages here as far back as they can trace…all people our justice system has written off and discarded but who have some of the most valuable life lessons every person should know.

I have gotten the opportunity to get to know these incredible people who are often so open and happy to share their stories, and found the chance to help share that knowledge with others. My friends in prison have taught me that when we know better, we can do better, and for that I hope they never stop allowing me to learn from them.

JAC: The Justice Arts Coalition, as it grows, will continue to seek out and implement a vision of how to better support teaching artists. In your view, what does a supportive network need to include? Are there any current obstacles you are trying to overcome as an organization?

CC: I was introduced to the Justice Arts Coalition at the Connecting Art & Law for Liberation festival at UCLA in 2019, when Wendy and I had the chance to sit down over drinks and talk about the passion we had for our work. Getting to see JAC grow these past few years has been so inspiring to me and an incredibly valuable resource for many of our community members that I give out probably to too many people. My partner jokes that I want to see everyone else buried under the same mountain of letters that I am. *laughs manically* I really look forward to being able to collaborate more to better support all our artists on the inside, and being a support network for each other.

Some of our greatest challenges and obstacles are keeping up with the workload. For many people in prison, there are very few resources and people they can turn to, and most organizations that do exist are overextended, beyond capacity and swamped with the amount of work that needs to be done. A.B.O. receives thousands of letters a year and we are an incredibly small team – it sometimes takes us months to get a response out to each individual. Retaining volunteers, especially during COVID, has been difficult and the workload falls disproportionately on just a few people.

I would love to see our organizations with similar goals come together to distribute the workload and create the most amount of positive change for all involved. A supportive network of organizations we could communicate & collaborate with, each playing to our own strengths, would be instrumental in supporting our artists. 

JAC: JAC is focused on ways in which art can connect those in the prison system with those on the outside. Has this relationship been jeopardized by COVID-19? How have you been keeping connections active during this time?

CC: This year has been a rough one for all of us, but especially those on the inside who have lived with the fear of never returning to their friends and loved ones, or never getting to say goodbye to those they lost. We wanted to create a project that would allow our contributors to channel their fears, anxieties and pain into something productive and beautiful, so we published a second anthology this year called Confined Before COVID-19, featuring comics, artwork, poetry and short essays about how the pandemic was affecting people in prison. We asked them to share their thoughts and experiences while COVID spread like wildfire throughout the prison system, and received dozens of submissions that we compiled into an extraordinary collection that serves as a time capsule for this difficult year.

We’ve been working extra hard to make sure we maintain correspondence and connection with all our contributors so that they know they are not alone and not given up on. We started taking calls from prisoners this year, and trained a bunch of new volunteers on letter-writing so that we’re able to chip away at our mail mountain bit by bit. I think our relationships with those on the inside has only gotten stronger this year, and our incarcerated family has more than doubled in size in 2020. 

JAC: As our art networks look to the future, how do you hope the pandemic, as well as this period of protest, will alter the public’s understanding of the justice system?

CC: Although this year has collectively been one of the most difficult of our lifetimes, it has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate what is important and what is worth fighting for. The relationships we form with our families and friends are the most critical lifeline we have, and this pandemic has given us time to pause and sort out our priorities. Here in Oakland, the street our office is on was turned into a 2 mile long gallery of protest art (which we captured in our publication, Protest Art – Broadway in Oakland: June 20 2020), bringing our community together through the power of art to have conversations about police brutality and our justice/prison systems.

These conversations are now widespread, with many people discussing these issues for the first time. Our society is learning and engaging more now than I’ve ever seen, and it’s given me a renewed sense of optimism in the power of community. I hope that the art created during this time will encourage us to be kinder to each other, uplift one another, and work towards better days for all of us.

Visit A.B.O. Comix online to learn more about their organization and their artists. Shop for books, zines, prints, apparel, and more! The profits generated go back to incarcerated artists, especially those with little to no resources.

Guest Blog: Chris Trigg

by Chris Trigg

It’s a good thing we’ve got windows or we’d never see the sun. The virus leaped the wall and settled in amongst us. Not that we were sunkissed before it crept in. We’ve been in a state of modified lockdown since march. The modified meaning we got an hour out of our cells to access 1 ten minute call. 5 cells at a time. That reduced to 30 minutes. Then twenty minutes 1 cell at a time. Then nothing. 

In the supermax where I spent years and years and then more years, meeting up with the sun was rare. We went outside 2 or 3 times a week to spend 2 hours in a cage like a dog kennel. We usually were out by 7:30 am and back in by 10 just as the sun crests the 30 foot walls to filter through the layers of fencing that caps the small patio-like area where the cages are.

Devoid of sunlight for years you begin to feel joint pain which you’ll attribute to age, or working out too much. You’ll experience drops in energy and a myriad of other effects. You’ll figure it’s just part of aging. I know I did.

When I finally left and reacquainted myself with the sun it made my skin itch. After a week or two the itch went away. The joint paint and all those attributes of age did too. After all I’m not that old. 

We evolved in the sun. We take it for granted cause we get it here, there, and everywhere. Except in the darkest corners of America. Certain prisons, that is. 

The people who run these prisons don’t know they’ve never gone months without a little sun. They likely don’t care either. I’ve traded the attempted risk reduction for the coronavirus for the regression of sunless senescence. I’ve been hearing people complain that they don’t feel right or well. Perhaps we’ve all been exposed to the coronavirus. We haven’t been tested but we pass regular temperature checks. Maybe we’re mostly too tough for covid. Hardened convicts and all. More probable is guys are beginning to feel the effects of being confined in a small space for months with no sun. 

I’d be surprised if any real studies of the effects of long term deprivation of sun on humans beings have been conducted. Long term meaning years or even decades. Why would they? Who deprives human beings of sun and air for such periods of time, right? Haven’t the courts found such deprivations a violation of the 8th amendment? To not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Sure. But who cares, right? Hopefully you don’t because it’s done in your name and you pay for it. 

One thing is for sure, the virus is inside this petri dish. They had 28 guys pop up sick in one unit one day. They created a quarantine unit and started moving people. They put them in white, paper-looking jumpsuits. I see them being escorted to medical sometimes from my window. I only saw one man who appeared to be struggling to get there. Or maybe he was just walking very slow to enjoy the sun. 

Now, I bet you’re thinking that all I do is whine and paint an occasionally pretty picture. I take it in stride. I survive on optimism and imagination. I’m addressing stark realities here sometimes so I tell it like it is in case you’re interested. In case you’re listening and paying attention. No one paying attention is how we got to this current america. 

I’m gonna tough it out and keep my soul and my smile. I regret that I haven’t been able to send new art. Along with the sun, all art programs are cancelled. I have been toiling with limited resources but we can’t order supplies or mail out art still. 

I survived Hurricane Laura which put on a late night show here. I discovered the name of the coal black birds that live here. They’re called Grackles. Their song goes from car alarms to 80’s video games. They rode out the storm, too.

Everyday I get another step closer to the end of this long march. Closer to being returned to the people who love me and have endured what I’ve endured, to see an end to this era. A new beginning. I am aware that no matter what I go through, there are always people who have it a lot worse somewhere. I know as well people suffer who’ve done nothing to deserve their woe. I try to keep it in perspective. To be mindful.

Christian Trigg
You can view more of Chris’ work in his portfolio and in our galleries.

About the contributor:

“My wildlife art is my story of redemption. My desire is to demonstrate respect, compassion and love can thrive in the darkest of places… Each painting captures the animal in its authentic habitat.

I am self-taught. I have never taken a lesson. I use wildlife photography from magazines and books for my source.

I do my paintings on the floor of my cell. I am not allowed an easel, high quality paper or any medium but chalk pastels. I use my thumb to blend and soften the background. Each painting takes many hours of layering colors to highlight depth and light.”

-Christian Trigg