Monday, October 15, 2012

Friend to Those in Prison, Prisoner I and II

Friend to Those in Prison.  Stitched words:  Letters + Visits that Touch Lives.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand beaded and stitched.  25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.

Barbie Mathis ( is a talented, professional artist.  Her watercolors carry a distinctive, naturalistic style, vibrant colors, and glazes of atmospheric depth.  She's also a lovely person, inside and out; so, it came as no surprise to me that she extends herself to others.  What I didn't know until embarking on the Decision Portrait Series is that Barbie generously shares hope with several people who are incarcerated. 

She told me how it all started.  There was a bank robbery in West Columbia.  The police captured all of the robbers....except one....who was known to be lurking in an affluent neighborhood.  Everyone was scared.  Barbie and her church prayer group prayed for all those living in the area.  The bank robber was finally apprehended after trying to high-jack a car at gunpoint. 

Then, the newspaper carried an article in which the "villain" was described as having been a popular high school graduate and an active former church member.  Barbie was stunned.  She'd been praying for everyone involved except the one person that likely needed it most....the bank robber.  She went to visit him.  She's been writing to him ever since and to several of his friends.  Barbie spreads words of hope and forgiveness.
Prisoner II.  Stitched words:  I robbed a bank.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand stitched and beaded.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed:  31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.

Barbie took the photo I used to create the portrait above.....right through the Plexi-Glas prison barrier.  The young man will not be part of the general population for years but will be ready for that day when it comes.  He's got a connection to something good, to hope, to religion, and to someone who cares enough to write letters.  It makes a difference.

I'm sure this young man agreed to participate in this series because of Barbie's positive influence.  He hopes that someone will see his image and think about the humanity that really is part of prison life.  He hopes, like Barbie and I hope, that there might be viewers at the upcoming exhibitions who have friends or relatives in prison.  Perhaps, coming face-to-face with his outward staring eyes, these people will be prompted to reach out and communicate a word or two of hope.  It would make a difference.

 Prisoner I.  Stitched words:  I let drugs nearly ruin my LIFE.  Hand stitched and beaded.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed:  31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.

The lady in this portrait is also in prison.  I was put in touch with her through another source.  Our method of communication is by letters.  She wrote about her life, how she neglected her children, herself, and everything she held most dear while spiraling down into a world of lawless drug use.  

In prison, she found hope.  She writes to her family.  They write to her.  It makes a difference.  She is very upfront about her crimes, her mistakes, and her recovery.  In order to share her decisions, she sent me a photo.  I scanned it.  This portrait is the result.  The blog post written about this trio of portraits was printed, put into an envelope, and mailed to her.  She hopes that those seeing her image will reflect on it.... see a transformed woman.... see both the mistakes and the corrections.  Life is a series of decisions.  None of us have made all the "right" ones.  All of us must decide how to handle the poorer ones we've made and how to react to people who paid for their mistakes with prison time.

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