Amber Daniel

“A voice from inside…

All my life I’ve been a drug addict, at least since I was 13 years old. What caused me to come down this life road? 

IDOC # 101969 Inmate Daniel, I was supposed to be somebody special. Not some loser. 

What makes me a loser? Societies views, and harsh opinions do… 

In the eyes of the law I’m nothing more than a criminal. A bad person, with a history of lying to the police. I’ve only ever been who I am, but who am i? 

The best part about being human, is the ability to change. 

Maybe I was a loser once, a drug addict who lied to the police. I have committed crimes. I’ve done, bought, and sold, I’ve slammed, smoked, snorted, even ate all types of drugs. 

I’ve stolen, borrowed, and used, I’ve been stolen from, robbed, mugged, and raped, I’ve been molested in my youth. 

I’ve given and I’ve taken all types of abuse. I’ve hated, and I’ve loved, I’ve built and I’ve broken. I’ve hoped and I’ve hurt, had and I’ve lost. 

I’ve been dirty, and homeless, alone, and now found, I’ve been clean, and I’ve cried, I’ve lived, and i’ve died, I’ve tried and I’ve failed, I’ve been numb, and I’ve felt. 

I’ve been beaten, and I’ve won… I’ve come and I’ve gone, and damn it I’m back again. 

I can’t change the things that have already happened, but being human I can change who I am going to become. 

Faith is believing in what you can’t see. At this moment life isn’t easy for me but that doesn’t mean anything. I just have to keep believing, and continue to be me.”

– Amber Daniel

The Boy Who Only Wanted to be Loved

By John Zenc 

“The drawing of the boy who only wanted to be loved is in memory of Timy, my best friend. Timy was born with no hands, and oversized eyes. Hazel in color. Looking in Timy’s eyes, you could see his soul, see the pain, the fear, the love.

Timy would come to school, black and blue marks all over his body. I knew these marks, because I had them too. My father would beat me. Timy and I became best friends. Timy’s father would take his hate and anger out on Timy, beating him, calling him dirty names. Even though Timy’s father would beat and abuse Timy – Timy would still love and forgive his father, but no love in return from his father. I also loved and forgave my father.

The kids at school would tease little Timy and bully him relentlessly, but still Timy would smile, and be polite.

Timy and I were the outcasts in school, so we would eat lunch together, okay together, we were together all the time. I did everything for Timy, he was such a gentle soul. We even drew together. I would help him pick colors. Because of Timy I became an artist. One day Timy did not show up for school. The next day Timy’s lifeless broken body was found in the lake. His father beat and murdered Timy. Dumped his little body in the lake, his father was arrested. Timy is the boy who only wanted to be loved. This drawing is dedicated to all the bullied and abused children. Timy died at age seven.”

“This is dedicated to all the bullied and abused children.” – John Zenc

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John Zenc, an amazing artist in our network, has shared with us the incredibly vulnerable, tragic, and important story of his best friend, Timy. It explains not only Timy’s life, but also John’s beginnings in art.

Timy was a victim of bullying and abuse, to the point of his death. He had one friend, and that was John. His story is one that is difficult but necessary to discuss. Everyone knows that bullying and abuse lead to negative outcomes. This is no breaking news. However, the full extent of the long term effects are seldom discussed. Bullying and abuse during childhood are correlated with mental illnesses, conduct disorders, and more problems later in life – even incarceration. The bullying to prison pipeline is a very real problem, and one that must be addressed. The only way to do this is to address the root problem: the relentless bullying and abuse of children in our society. This is obviously no simple task, but sharing the stories of bullied and abused children is a good start to this mission.

With tears in his eyes, John wrote to me “Please spread the word. Don’t let Timy be forgotten.” So please read Timy’s story, view his beautiful portrait, and reflect on the toll bullying and abuse has taken on our society. We must fight for these children – through words, through actions, through art. 

John is doing everything he can to spread this story, even from behind bars. He asks, “How many other Timy’s are out there, being beaten, abused, teased, mistreated?” and insists that “all this abuse and bullying must come to a stop.” Stopping these hateful acts is John’s number one goal in life. So please share this story, and always remember Timy. 

 

About The Contributor:

A little history of myself. Born Feb. 3, 1957 — Honolulu, Hawaii. Been married two times. No kids, now divorced. I enlisted in the United States Army at age 15. I made a birth certificate, later my age was discovered. But when I turned 17, I re-enlisted. Both honorable discharges. I know and secretly went out with Natalie Wood, the famous actress.

Several [of my] pieces were sold to John Lennon and Johnny Carson, T.V. Personality.

My art work is now all around the world. Many people have my kids. My art is my kids. I gave life to each piece.

John Zenc

Upcoming Exhibition: “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

Tameca Cole. Locked in a Dark Calm. 2016. Collage and graphite on paper, 8 ½” x 11”

JAC is excited to announce the opening of MoMA’s PS1 “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Incarceration”, an exhibit running from September 17th, 2020 – April 4th, 2021.

As described on the MoMA website, “this major exhibition explores the work of artists within US prisons and the centrality of incarceration to contemporary art and culture. Featuring art made by people in prisons and work by non-incarcerated artists concerned with state repression, erasure, and imprisonment, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration highlights more than 35 artists, including American Artist, Tameca Cole, Russell Craig, James “Yaya” Hough, Jesse Krimes, Mark Loughney, Gilberto Rivera, and Sable Elyse Smith. The exhibition has been updated to reflect the growing COVID-19 crisis in US prisons, featuring new works by exhibition artists made in response to this ongoing emergency.

Marking Time features works that bear witness to artists’ reimagining of the fundamentals of living—time, space, and physical matter—pushing the possibilities of these basic features of daily experience to create new aesthetic visions achieved through material and formal invention. The resulting work is often laborious, time-consuming, and immersive, as incarcerated artists manage penal time through their work and experiment with the material constraints that shape art making in prison. The exhibition also includes work made by non-incarcerated artists—both artists who were formerly incarcerated and those personally impacted by the US prison system. From various sites of freedom or unfreedom, these artists devise strategies for visualizing, mapping, and making physically present the impact and scale of life under carceral conditions. Alongside the exhibition, a series of public programs, education initiatives, and ongoing projects will explore the social and cultural impact of mass incarceration.

Marking Time is organized by guest curator Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood, Professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University, and reflects her decade-long commitment to the research, analysis, and archiving of the visual art and creative practices of incarcerated artists and art that responds to mass incarceration. The exhibition follows the release of Fleetwood’s new book, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”

The exhibition will feature a number of artists, including some who have worked previously with JAC. JAC participating artists will include: Carole Alden; Conor Broderick; Amber Rose Daniel; Gary Harrell; Brian Hindson; William B. Livingston III; Cedar Mortenson; and James Sepesi.

For more information, please visit: MoMA Exhibition. Marking Time: Art in the Age of Incarceration. 

Creativity

By Christian Trigg

In the early years of the New Millennium, I was watching a series about famous artists on the little black and white TV in my cell in the federal supermax courtesy of PBS. I don’t know if they even made black and white TVs. The ones issued to us were color TVs. They had turned the color all the way down, then removed the menu button so it stayed that way. They wouldn’t want us to have it too good in our tomb, I guess.

The series profiled Caravaggio, David, Rembrant, Van Gogh and Rothko. Caravaggio was an outlaw. He died on the run wanted for killing a man in a sword duel. David sat on the French Revolutionary panel that sent a great number of aristocrats to the guillotine. Rembrant got himself blacklisted insulting the social elites… All the artists featured had controversial histories.

I read up a little on Caravaggio. Turns out artists his age ran around in “gangs” ( for lack of a better term), hung out with hookers and occasionally went at each other with swords. It wasn’t just him!  All those iconic religious paintings they left to prosperity.  I had the impression there was an abundance of devout artist monks 500 years ago… Not so much. It was more a case of the wealthiest commissioners of art where the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Artist made ends meet painting what paid. But the character’s wielding the brushes were rebels at the heart. Not to put myself on their level but I feel a certain affinity for them.

A psychologist in a program I participated in told me  I had creative personality type. Mind you they tell everyone in maximum-security prisons that we are all sociopaths. It makes them feel better. America, in case you thought manufacturing here was dead, let me tell you you are leading the world in the production of psychos. But creative personality?

I got a little buck and that myself reading about myself. Seems my brain is wired a little differently. I traded all your practicality for my creativity and I’ve been paying for it for as long as I can remember. If you are reading this and saying that too. We are 2 out of 100 I read. It isn’t easy to be a dreamer in a practical world. My mom sent me my fourth grade report card when I tried to explain this to her. One Ms. Speak wrote, “Chris is very bright but he refuses to concentrate on the lessons.”  no doubt I was gazing out the window, doodling and daydreaming. Misunderstood I picked up the fundamentals  out of the corner of my ear.

I started to get the feeling I was a problem very young. I didn’t act out until I began to believe it in my early team. I became creative at finding trouble.

There are a lot of creative people in prison. They channel their creativity in different ways. I’ve seen feats of technical engineering that would awe MacGyver. In prison, making something out of nothing is how one lives. It manifests itself in food, creature comforts, crafts, art, and myriad other ways.  Creativity abounds. Crafty people tend to thrive. If creativity is the expression of the Soul then prisons have souls.

They say there’s a shortage of creativity in America these days. I wonder why. I bet Caravaggio, Rembrandt and all the crazy artists could relate to that.

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About The Contributor

I am an artist incarcerated in a maximum federal prison.  My sentence does not end until the next decade.

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

Guest Blog: Denise Shumway – The Ohio Prison Arts Connection (OPAC)

When the world closed, as some describe the widespread shutdown due to Covid 19, many of us with connections to Ohio’s prison system knew we couldn’t just sit back and hope for the best then wait to see our students on the other side of the pandemic.

We considered our own lives in isolation. What were we doing? We were reading, listening to music, watching movies; we were engaging with the arts! With that in mind, we knew we wanted to give our incarcerated friends a way to experience something of the arts and create some art themselves! Thus, the Creative Care Package Project was born!

This project was birthed in discussions members of the Ohio Prison Arts Connection (OPAC) had as we wrestled with how to maintain support and connection. OPAC is a coalition of people committed to building arts access for people in prison and re-entry, and to creating spaces for storytelling, resource-sharing, and dialogue both inside and outside of prisons. (Link to OPAC Website and Facebook page). 

We put out a call for artists to contribute artistic prompts with the goal of creating a booklet that could be printed and given to inmates to work on a variety of creative projects. We asked for creative writing prompts, drawing prompts, or other simple invitations to create. The only stipulation was that the prompt be contained to one 8 ½ x 11 page, with ample white space for response. The call went out to OPAC friends who passed along to other artists and friends.

And the pages began rolling in!

We limited the booklets to 40 pages, with a mini-booklet also available. Initially, we printed them and mailed or delivered them, so size was an issue with a limited budget to work with. We also sent them out electronically so people can use selected portions or individual pages, or print the entire booklet in quantities they needed. We wanted this project to include as much flexibility as possible so people involved in the prison system from a variety of angles and in different settings can pull from the files what works for them.

We sought and received amazing support from state leadership which gave us permission to send our project out to every institution in the state through the recreation directors. This streamlined the process to a uniform system of sharing both current and future booklets. And we hope it will help when it comes to sharing completed work which we hope to publish.

Now, five months later, we are glad we took a pro-active approach right away. With no end to the visitor/volunteer ban in sight, we don’t know how long it will be before we can get back to what we were doing in our pre-pandemic days. Nor do we know what our involvement will look like when things do open back up.

Meanwhile, we are thrilled to know we have provided those on the inside with a way to share their thoughts and feelings with each other and with those on the outside. We also plan to continue to produce a group of prompts each month in an effort to give artists on both sides of the fence a way to connect with their inner artist.

If you want to contribute an artistic prompt for a future edition, here is what we’re seeking:

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And if you want to share the Creative Care Packages with those you know, here’s where you can find them:

Care Package

Care Package – Vol 2

Mini Creative Care Package – Vol.1