Friday, December 26, 2014

Art incarcerated at the Eastern State Penitentiary

Throughout the years 1829- 1971, the Eastern State Penitentiary held roughly 75,000 inmates behind their 30 feet walls, making it secure for those inside (and outside) for no escapes or unwanted entries.

Art incarcerated at the Eastern State Penitentiary

Greg Cowper´s Specimen features rare species of moths and butterflies found inside the exercise yard of the penitentiary.  (Photo courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary)
Greg Cowper's Specimen features rare species of moths and butterflies found inside the exercise yard of the penitentiary. (Photo courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary)

Throughout the years 1829-1971, the Eastern State Penitentiary held roughly 75,000 inmates behind their 30 feet walls, making it secure for those inside (and outside) for no escapes or unwanted entries. As time went by, many stories and memories were collected to create memorable and impacting exhibitions for visitors to see. Make a day of exploring the Eastern State Penitentiary through art, inspired by inmates, created by artists.  

Starting on Thursday, May 1, two new artist installments will be featured in the prison for visitors to see. The first of two installments is Hannah Bertram’s Poetry of Transformation, which features creative work through dust that was collected to reflect the revival of the penitentiary throughout time.

The second installment of the artist series on Thursday, May 1, is Other Absences by Cindy Stockon Moore, an exhibition which portrays the murder victims of those criminals whom served time at the penitentiary. The work inside the cell reminds visitors the impact crime has inside, and outside the cold walls.

Besides the two additions to the artist installations, there are eight other artist exhibitions yearly for visitors to view throughout the tour of the prison.

Backdrops and murals are created to impact the lives of everyone, especially prisoners. In David Adler’s Visions of the Free World, the backdrops portray beaches, mountains, islands and other landscapes showing the symbolic relationship of prisoners and the disconnection to the “free world”.

Although reading is a good hobby for all, reading material was banned for every inmate at the penitentiary, with the exception of the Bible. Throughout Lisa Bateman’s Next Year exhibit, readers will see a compilation of the missing realities, hopes, and dreams through a timeline consisting of 142 years.

If creepy crawlers and historic items catch your interest, Greg Cowper’s Specimen display will keep your eyes glued to the collection of moths, butterflies, and other odd objects collected throughout a prisoners experience at the penitentiary.

William Cromar presents GTMO which places a cell from the abandoned holding cells of the notorious Guantanamo Bay inside the penitentiary. His work shows us the different extremes of each prison.

Three televisions are placed throughout the prison during Alexa Hoyer’s I Always Wanted to Go to Paris, France. As you walk around the building, the televisions are placed in relevant areas telling real life experiences during time at the penitentiary.

Comfortable is the last thing prison is. During Karen Schmidt’s Cozy installment, you will view rooms created entirely of knitted yarn reminding us that prison is all about creating one’s personal comfort.

When imprisoned, man can be seen as nothing but an object. During your tours of the cells, Tyler Held’s Identity Control displays a car in a cell as a metaphor of outsiders thoughts.

The final artist installment is Beware the Lily Law by Michelle Handelman. This impacting video projection brings forth the stories of three prisoners who faced problems at the penitentiary because they were gay. Viewers will get an inside look at real life experiences throughout the time the prisoners served.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Years Day.

Tim Reardon philly.com
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Tim Reardon philly.com
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