Visualizing The Overlooked Legacy of Mass Incarceration
Artists with family members behind bars get creative about opening our eyes to what life’s really like for those trapped in America’s epidemic of imprisonment.
Photos by Rodolfo Diaz
After Googling his estranged father and discovering dozens of currently or formerly incarcerated men with the exact same first and last name, Titus Kaphar, an artist based in New Haven, Connecticut, created a series of paintings called “The Jerome Project.” He painted tar-covered mug shots of these men in the style of Byzantine holy portraits, specifically those depicting Saint Jerome. Gold-leaf paint covers portions of their faces in correlation to the length of their prison sentences.
Meanwhile, artist Hank Willis Thomas and John Jay College professor Dr. Baz Dreisinger recently collaborated on the travelling installation The Writing on the Wall, a room-sized take on modern hieroglyphics made from essays, poems, letters, stories, diagrams and notes written by prisoners around the world. Dr. Dreisinger collec…