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Looking At The Work Of United States’ Confined Artists

The United States has the highest number of incarcerated people in the world, with 2.3 million individuals confined in more than 7,000 correctional facilities around the country. Inside these penal institutions, a wide discrepancy can easily be observed which led to several scholars studying this very phenomenon through carceral geography, or a study into the spaces and practices of incarceration.

Nicole R. Fleetwood, a Rutgers University professor, launched an in-depth study of art created by these restricted individuals, relating it not only to the power structures rampant in these institutions but also to the ways that mass incarceration broadly affects culture. She wrote a book entitled Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration and created an accompanying exhibit carrying the same name that was held at the Museum of Modern Art.

The creations of several dozen confined artists were put in the spotlight, highlighting the diverse and creative use of space, time, and materials while inside their cells. Here are some of the artists and descriptions of their works.


Dean Gillespie


Gillespie, who spent 20 long years inside for wrongful convictions before being absolved in 2011, used his wide array of fellow inmates to procure various items like pins and dental compound to build striking diorama-like miniatures. His creations are fine and extremely detailed, using scraps to construct life-like replicas of days and structures gone by.


Jesse Krimes

Using an ingenious method with some hair gel and a spoon, Krimes was able to imprint several advertisements from printed media onto his bedsheets. Aptly named as Apokaluptein 16389067, 39 of these printed bedsheets were then taken out of the institution one by one and made their way to the exhibit, displayed proudly for the world to see.


Gilberto Rivera

Rivera, a leader of the Latin Kings in New York, created striking mixed-media collages. Most notable among his works is An Institutional Nightmare, which was his shredded uniform haphazardly embedded in a paste-like concoction of acrylic paint and floor wax.


Daniel McCarthy Clifford

The Leavenworth Project is a collection of sculptures constructed by Clifford in 2018. Following his release, he went on to finish his graduate studies and created a politically charged art piece made from cafeteria trays.

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