P2P: Prisoners to Paper dolls
As an artist who has spent over twenty-five years working as a defense lawyer, I am primarily concerned with issues of criminal justice. My current series, P2P, Prisoners to Paper dolls (#p2p) is a study of how we as a society react to and treat people exiting prisons. The general public’s prevalent perception of these citizens is negative, singular, and unmindful. Their past isolation from the world and their current unanchored existence make it easy for us to simplify and objectify them, tagging them with lifelong monikers that acutely restrict their ability to participate fully in any community. I am particularly interested in the cultural constructs surrounding the evolution from arrest to criminal release and re-integration. My work will analyze paradigms while conflating legal advocacy with artistic expression.
I paint figurative depictions of this population presented as paper dolls with accompanying, but separate, clothing or environments. Included in the project are archival documents illuminating the system that arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, and supervised them. Each “set” has a core painting of the ex-inmate, presented as a two-dimensional, whimsical toy at the mercy of societal precepts and stereotyping. The paintings accompanying the focal painting will include pieces of clothing that the viewer can interchangeably place on the core figure. Each ex-convict will have occasion-directed clothing and accessories, along with environments. The documentation provides context and is presented as extended captions.
David Jones, one of the models, is a former member of the L.A. Crips. At the age of forty-eight, he celebrates his three-year release date, the longest term of freedom he has had since the age of twenty-one. Jennifer Pearce, having served seven years in a state penitentiary for drug offenses, now holds down two jobs and is an MMA fighter. These are people whose lives were impacted not only by incarceration but also by release from prison.
Ninety-seven percent of the offenders in jail today will be released to the communities from which they came. Ninety-seven percent. These people face extensive barriers to success after release from prison. Ex-prisoners must pay numerous fees and fines. The majority of jurisdictions also charge the accused for public defenders, prison stays, probation supervision, and electronic monitoring. Beyond the obvious financial burdens, they are also branded as ex-felons at every job application they encounter. (#banthebox) These are concrete embodiments of the complex system of punishment, which continues to punish ex-prisoners through the stigma of incarceration for the rest of their lives. I hope to foster changes in perceptions and attitudes about our fellow citizens.