“GREETINGS, from an imprisoned artist! I, Michael Pelletier, who has been assigned federal prisoner number 11109-036, am being punished for various marijuana offenses by being forced to awaken each morning and face the reality of dying in prison. A federal court, in 2007, imposed a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release/parole. As a consequence, I have been forced to confront and deal with at least (3) challenges: (1) being a paraplegic (due to a farming accident at age eleven); (2) being unable to obtain relief offered from marijuana; and (3) punishment for the use of marijuana through imprisonment for life. In order to meet the foregoing challenges, and simultaneously, derive some meaning and enjoyment from life, I have developed my talent for oil painting. I found encouragement and guidance from another great artist – Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian novelist who was imprisoned for a lengthy period of time in Siberia, the Russian prison.
Bless you prison, Bless you for
Being in my life. For there lying
Upon the rotting prison straw, I
Came to realize that the object of
Life is not prosperity as we are
Made to believe, but the maturity
Of the human soul.
Solzhenitsyn wrote about the severe restrictions which a prison imposes, yet, through human ingenuity, one reaches a higher plateau and overcomes those obstacles. I believe that art has allowed me to undergo a similar metamorphosis.
Prior to my present imprisonment, I had failed to seek refuge in whatever artistic talent I possessed. Perhaps the added fact that imprisonment forces one to either reach maturity, or forever remain a slave to others, assisted in my metamorphosis into an avid artist. My enthusiasm for painting was aroused when I realized its communicative powers. To me, completing an oil painting is like creating a novel; it triggers a viewer’s imagination and draws his or her mind into the painting and can fill a person with images, dreams, excitement and pleasure.
My journey through life has mirrored those of many others who took wrong turns before reaching their destination. Taking a wrong turn cannot be undone, but it is a teaching moment, if one does not rationalize what caused it. On the other hand, if I make a bad decision in painting, I can simply paint over it and continue. Thus, an artist need not be anxious about making mistakes, or feel stressful over the error. While mistakes is life usually affect others, in addition to oneself, a mistake in painting only affects the art. Consequently, I gather great relief from my problems, and life in prison, through the escape offered by painting. If anxiety arises, it is in the genesis of an oil painting when a decision is being made as to the subject to be depicted on canvas. That is when one must weigh his or her abilities against the subject matter, and if one is qualified to paint the subject matter in a manner that will communicate the artist thoughts to a future audience. It has been stated about artists that: “We learn to observe and we train our hand. We learn to see proportion, values, anatomy and form. Learning to draw and paint is a physical thing. It is the training of the body. The artisan (craft) basis of art is what I learned and with great joy.”
Often overlooked in oil paintings is the role played by the choice of color or colors. It is equally important as the figure or figures depicted. “Color sends a message that is wishes to convey some tension or the other way around, to convey calm.” “Color has a visual psychological impact and can encourage feelings and mood. Because of that, color has powerful language to impart information that could not be realized any other way.” The combination of color and the subject permit an artist to say in ten sentences what others would require a whole book to relate. Unlike a beautiful song and its accompanying music, color in an oil painting cannot be separated from the subject.
In conclusion, I wish to express my aspiration as being a desire to create paintings that allow viewers to walk into, become a part of, and lose themselves in, at least momentarily. It is my fascination to draw figures that give voice to an emotional and spiritual dialogue. Since my paralysis has prevented me from experiencing the physical aspects of life, it created a doorway for me to concentrate on the spiritual side of existence, and find meaning to life.”