Friday, April 9, 2010

15 Impressive Creative Works Made In Prison

As long as there has been civilization, there has been crime, and it’s up to the police to help bring criminals to justice and stick them where they belong. Jail, prison, house arrest…it doesn’t matter to a good cop, just as long as they’re off the streets. The hard-edged cops in our new series “Central Division” know a thing or two about throwing the bad guys in the joint. But what happens to the perps once they’re behind bars? A few enterprising inmates use their scant resources and overflowing free time to create fascinating works of art. Here are a few of our favorites. And remember: Don’t mess with the law, or you might have to find some new hobbies.

1. The Sailor

Most inmate art logically depicts the artist’s feeling toward the very concept of incarceration. Perhaps dreaming of an escape, this inmate hand-painted an idyllic sailing scene on an administration-building window at the Montana State Prison.

2. The Courtyard Mural
Sometimes prison artwork is a collaborative effort. Several inmates contributed to transforming a wall of Australia’s Fremantle Prison courtyard into a beautiful mural.
3. The Fiery Horizon
Shortly before it closed in 1990, Fremantle allowed prisoners to decorate the walls of their cells. This inmate mainly used black, yellow and red for a fiery sunset effect.
4. The Micro Cell
Using popsicle sticks and other odd items found within the prison walls, this inmate created a miniature cell. The attention to detail is stunning, from the tiny bunk beds to the miniature toilet.


5. The Makeshift Postcard

Because they have limited access to art supplies, prisoners often have to get creative with the materials they use to create their work. Even a mailing envelope can serve as a blank canvas.
6. The Pin-Up
It helps to have an artistic eye when your resources are limited. Using pre-existing cracks in his cell wall, this prisoner created a detailed portrait of a woman.
7. Dinner And A Mural
At quick glance, it may look like someone hung a painting, but this landscape portrait was actually scrawled over the tiles in the cafeteria of the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville.
8. The Wall Bible
Many inmates use their time behind bars to grow spiritually. This illustration from a cell in a New Mexico state prison is evidence that, even when a hard copy of the Bible is not available, a cell wall can become one.
9. The Spanish Lady
It takes a lot of talent to draw on just about any surface, but the attention to detail in the illustration scrawled onto this rough surface in a Madrid prison is particularly impressive. 
10. A Car On Crack
Where most people would only see a cracked wall, some inmates see a blank canvas. Here, prisoners from Costa Rica’s San Lucas Island Prison made innovative use of the cracks in a wall to create a surprisingly realistic illustration of a car.
11. Stained Glass, Prison Style
Most prison chapels lack the ornamentation of a more traditional church. But inmates of a prison on the coast 
of French Guiana took matters into their own hands, painting this beautiful mural on the wall of theirs.
12. The Cavity Search
This wall illustration, found in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in WWII Germany, has more than one meaning. Cartoon vegetables represent the kitchen in which the painting resided, but also depicted is the humiliating cavity search that all incoming inmates had to endure.
13. Mini Log Cabin
The most ideal art projects for prisoners are those that will help pass time. This miniature log cabin, built by an inmate in Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison, undoubtedly fits that bill; it must have been quite labor-intensive.
14. The Wood Train
Renato Norelli made this train during a “lockdown,” and his cellmate did all the painting and chose the color scheme. Knowing how limited inmate artists are, this astoundingly detailed train is all the more impressive.
15. The Wood Chopper
Miniature versions of large-scale objects certainly seem to be a trend among artistic prisoners due to extra down time and limited materials. Using only wood, Larry Sabo crafted a finely detailed miniature motorcycle. It’s going for $240 at prisonart.org.