I have painted three murals in prisons: at the central men’s jail in Santa Ana California, Oak Creek Correctional Facility for Girls in Albany, Oregon, and Bridgewater State Hospital in Bridgewater Massachusetts.
It’s a particularly special feeling to bring something so beautiful, light, and inspired into a prison. In prison there is so much hunger for lightness, hope and color. It’s a pretty amazing opportunity to bring people something that so easily feeds and delights them. To do it successfully it’s important to have it very clear in thought that this art, this activity, this togetherness, is the action of God. And it can reach and speak to the pure, good identity of each person in that prison.
The particular joy, to me, of doing artwork in a prison is that it invariably brings out joy, smiles, creativity and all kinds of beautiful things that most of the time seem absent in a present scenario. I love to remember that joy is right underneath the surface and it can be brought out by expressing love confidently and openly.
In the same way, it’s especially powerful to boldly paint the message “you are loved” in a prison. The human appearance of prison is that there has been an enormous lack of love. So to present this message in a prison has a beautiful, spiritual, defiant quality to it. Implicitly it points us to the spiritual nature of each individual. It points away from tragic human histories, mistakes, and regret, and shares the idea that that love is ever present, here and now.
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