Prison has produced several writers but few painters. At New York City’s jail, Glyn Vincent tells us on the Huffington Post, there’s a program to teach art history and develop the skills of inmates:
Few inmates at Rikers Island jail could identify a Picasso or Matisse painting if it was hung in their cell. But the dozen or so young men who are lucky enough to attend Elizabeth Josephson’s art class at the jail can not only identify the masters, many of them do inspired interpretations of their favorite painters’ art, whether it be the work of Marsden Hartley, David Hockney, Jean-Michel Basquiat or Takashi Murakami.
“I teach them art history,” says Josephson, who curated “Turnstile I,” an exhibition of Rikers inmate art that opens this Thursday, August 6th at the FiveMyles gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “It’s important that they know who these people are. It teaches them about the real art world and it gives them alternative role models to look up to.” […]
Josephson has been teaching art as part of a GED program at Rikers for eight years. She encourages her students, who call her “Miss J,” to take risks and explore with paint. It shows in the work, which is exuberantly colored, trenchant and imaginative. The paintings have diverse subjects from hip-hop women with orange Afros to kissing ancient Egyptian royalty and American cartoon heroes. There are scenes from prison, the street and the African Serengetti. Some of the work is illustrative, other paintings folkloric, naïve, or mythological.
A few of Josephsons’ students, like 18 year-old Parish Clark and 19 year-old Shabazz Martin, have the talent and inclination to pursue professional careers as fine or commercial artists.
Can Art Keep You Out of Jail? (Huffington Post)