Ever since the media has shed a spotlight on the need for prison reform in America, a necessary conversation has begun. But when it comes to the lives of prisoners who are in need, there’s one group that’s being left out of this conversation: they are the LGBTQ prisoners, and they face a higher risk of physical harm and sexual victimization during their imprisonment. Not to mention, what typically lands them behind bars in the first place are crimes of poverty that result from being abandoned by friends and families due to their gender identities.
On The Inside is a group show of LGBTQ artists that calls attention to these issues. The project was started by Tatiana von Furstenberg when she vowed to commit 30 acts of love. One of her acts was to write to a prisoner. Her pen pal prompted her to place an ad in Black and Pink, a national grassroots publication that’s comprised of prisoner-generated content. What came back was overwhelming: over time, 4,000 works were submitted from 4,000 imprisoned voices who were dying to be heard.
Over the course of several years, von Furstenberg continued to compile various works that the prisoners made using the limited materials that they had available to them: dull pencils, the parts of a pen that aren’t considered contraband, along with their own innovations, like Kool-Aid used to create a watercolor effect.
Starting tomorrow November 5th until December 18th, Tatiana’s curation, done in partnership with Black and Pink, will be on view at Abrons Art Center in New York. None of the art from the show is for sale, but the artists themselves have been compensated, which helps them to look after themselves while in prison. The purpose of the show is to give due exposure to these artists while raising the issue of prison reforms for the LGBTQ community. Sadly, none of the artists will be in attendance as they are still behind bars, but viewers of the show will be able to send messages to the artists through a transcribing service.
Here, we have a sample of artwork along with some words from the artists who deserve nothing more than a voice of their own:
“My remaining family shuns me, not because of my crime but rather because of my gay lifestyle.” –Jeff W. Texas
“I have been stripped of all my property, clothing, mat, and left to sleep on a steel bunk in 30 degree weather. I’ve been harassed time and time again for my identity, being a flamboyant, fem gay. But still I stand, I won’t bend and I won’t break, I am proud of who I am, I carry myself with gay pride 24/7.” -Felicity
“One of the male guards liked to sit four feet away, watch me shave my body and shower when he was on duty. He’d ask me what I would do for HIM, if I asked him for anything. Another guard that escorted me to the doctor’s office said, I bet you enjoyed that after my prostate exam.” -Paula W.
“To revive your love with your partner is to make you become fresh and strong again.” –Unknown
“I believe in love for anyone with the courage to feel it.” – Camaron T.
“Permanent Freedom is about being free, whether you’re in jail or out living life.” –Sal A.
“Many people live their whole lives falling in line instead of drawing their own lines.” –Elwin C.
“Sad that you only see me as invisible because I’m not identical to you. You’ll never know what I have to offer, so you’re missing a lot.” -Robert O.
“It was not until going to prison, that I understood the different levels of innocence” –Gregory S.
“My Dad beat me for even thinking about art.” -C.L. Diamond
“I love the challenge of using the cheapest and hardest to use supplies to see if I can make the finished art look as if it was created with professional grade supplies.” – JefferyEND
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