Cellblock Visions - prison art in america
prison art in america - Phyllis Kornfield

Art Gallery

Art Gallery

folk arts

outsider art

jail art


Outsider Art

Defined here as made by people who are not influenced by the art of their culture, whose work emanates from a very deep place that does not refer to any artwork already created. It is art wholly reinvented at every stage of the operation by its maker.

In prison, the outsider artists are creating work with pure motivation - art for its own sake - without even a nod to the prevailing popular art that their fellow prisoners admire and pay for.

Also known as self-taught, un-taught, visionary, art brut, naive, outsider art continues to inspire avid interest from patrons, galleries, and museums around the world reflecting a yearning for artistic innocence. Many of the prison artists shown here are well known in this arena and their work is sought after.

"Living in the South was hard on my mother, unmarried with six children to take care of. I remember coming home from school one day with a chicken on a piece of paper I had traced. My mother asked me to tell the truth, did I do it. I wanted so much to have not traced that chicken, I said yes. She made me do it again and I couldn’t. Well, I got a beating for lying about that chicken and I never traced or copied anybody’s work after that."

Folk Art in Prison
John Harvey "Flower Shop" oilsticks

"When I was here on death row, a woman came around offering the chance to paint, she pestered me for three months. I said, ‘No, it would be a waste of time.’ But I didn’t have a radio or TV and I was going crazy with nothing to do. I said ok to get her to leave me alone. She gave me the paints and went down the tier and I painted. When she came back I said, 'See, I can’t paint.' I looked at it again and started to like it. I said ‘Ok I’ll paint another one.’"

Folk Art in Prison
Robert Stansbury Miniature paintings acrylics

"I was 54 years old and never been incarcerated in my life before. I owned my own shoe repair shop. I never knew that I had any skills in art."

Adolph Cattalinich "The Reaper’s Wife" mixed media

Kelly G. "Please Don’t Let Him Get Me" mixed media

Margarita F. "Because I Love You" mixed media

"This is the belt he hit me with, this is the closet he locked me in, this is the stove he burnt me on. Here I am kneeling on the little carpet with tacks sticking up, it balancing a heavy grindstone on my head."

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Cell Block Visions: Prison Art in America
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