As per usual the LGBT community prove to be masterfully talented, even behind bars. Even with their limited supplies, and generally speaking, limited support within their confines (not to mention externally), the queer community in prison has managed to create some untrammeled (it means UNlimited) works of art.
Lucky for us (really for everyone!) regular civilians will now get to view their masterpieces at a new art exhibit in New York. The exhibit, a year-long-project by Tatiana von Fürstenberg, (Yes, that’s designer DVF’s daughter) is meant to shed a light on the LGBT prisoners, who face greater dangers presented towards them within ‘the system.’
These incarcerated artists draw a variety of subjects, successfully capturing their emotions, (gender) identities, and beliefs all while using dull pencils and ball-point pen ink tubes (the hard outer plastic shell is ‘too dangerous’).
The imagination some of these participants have with their mediums leads to the creation of some stunning artwork, like this airbrushed piece of Marilyn Monroe, which was achieved through the combined use of an asthma inhaler and some Kool Aid.
The exhibit, which originally received more than 4,000 submissions (only 450 are featured in the show), does include some captions by the inmates, which shed some insight into the lives of the prisoners.
Per the show’s release:
Through the lens of art, we on the outside have the opportunity to bear witness to the suffering and also celebrate the resilience of the artists who are locked up.
The art on these walls demonstrates the ability of those who are suffering to still create beauty. Each of these pieces tells a story and these are stories we must listen to.
Includes the caption:
“I have been stripped of all my property, clothing, mat… and left to sleep on a steel bunk in 30-degree weather,” writes Felicity. “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.”
Or this one:
“I just can’t understand why our proud American culture is accepting of our inhumane, undignified prison system,” writes Tony W. “It is insane to treat people horribly for years, then return them to society. I’ve become wise, yet pissed off.”
While others are actually quite romantic and seem fun:
“I had several relationships in prison and had the best sex I can possibly imagine,” wrote Cheyenne. “My favorite part of the day was lockdown. We would make out until the count, that’s when the real fun started.”
Young von Fürstenberg went on to explain her personal reasoning for the exhibition:
“My dad was gay. He had a lot of internalized homophobia early on, and had a really hard time coming out to me initially. He got better with it. Growing up in the fashion world meant I was basically raised by the LGBTQ community entirely. They were the only people I could really relate to.”
Along with her empathy towards inmates:
“The misconception created by the media is to make everyone in jail seem really dangerous, when in fact the prison population would be massively reduced if they decriminalized sex work, or stopped arresting under-18s, or stopped jailing people for the technical violations of probation. A lot of crime is poverty-incited.”
“What I hope is that people realize the enormous amount of talent, complexity, and culture of LGBTQ people within prison. You can’t stereotype and forget them. I want people to be wowed by the quality of the work, and the voices of these people to be heard.”
We are listening!
Although none of the art is for sale, visitors can text the inc-artists (via a transcription service) or become a pen-pal! You can also become a pen-pal with inmates through blackandpink.org.