Arts & Entertainment

The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery hosted their most recent exhibition, CellBlock Visions: Prison Art in America with a reception on September 7.

By Samantha Geiger
Contributing Writer

CellBlock Visions is an assortment of over 50 pieces of artwork created by men and women behind bars who had the desire to attend art classes within their prison. Most of the artists had no prior experience before taking these classes.

Phyllis Kornfield decided to share their stories. She  traveled  to host art classes for  inmates to fall in love with art, the same way she did. She helped them put their feelings on paper and express emotions with small sculptures. She was so inspired with their motivation and desire to make such wonderful pieces that she decided to showcase the work.

The exhibition displays a large assortment of pieces, including paintings, drawings, mixed media and even small sculptures from found objects. Many inmates carved soap into  intricate objects. Some of them even used toilet paper for pieces such as the Founding Fathers.

Kornfield gave a talk after the opening about why she started teaching in the prisons and the experiences she goes through. She used to teach art in schools but she felt like it was not enough. When she was offered the position,she felt like it was what she needed. She said during her experience so far she rarely has ever felt the slightest bit of danger. She  explained how eager these people were and that is why it was so rewarding for her.

“Art helps me connect with other people,” Crystal Stimpson said about one of her pieces. Kornfield said this is how a lot of the inmates felt toward their work and that is why they grew so passionate about art. Since they do not have connection with the outside world, they felt connected through their artwork.

A lot of the inmates displayed how they were feeling in their artwork. Some of them felt trapped within the cell. In the exhibition, there were a few paintings of their cell areas and the way they felt being confined in such a small space. There were also abstract pieces of what is going on inside   their minds. Being trapped in their cell caused them to develop some psychological issues such as depression and social anxiety. Many of the inmates have not spoken to other people in years.

In these classes, the inmates learned a sense of creativity, especially with such limited resources. Being in the exhibit and witnessing the soap and toilet paper figurines really makes you appreciate the resources we have  on the outside world. To show support, visit the gallery while the exhibition is up, now through October 8.