Title

Visual Art Representations of the American Prison Industrial Complex and the Panopticon

Authors

Tucker Neel

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2001

Abstract

There are over two million people in America's prisons and jails today. The majority of these people are poor people of color. The American mechanism of incarceration effectively targets and incarcerates those persons who are already economically, socially and politically disenfranchised by society-namely the poor and people of color. Our prison system thrives on abuse of power. It is rooted in a panoptic system of control that allows for certain elite sectors of society to exploit and incarcerate less-powerful "others" so as to maintain the status quo. In the course of this project I developed a critique of the American Prison system and expressed my findings in a series of paintings. I researched topics like capital punishment, the three strikes law, the war on drugs, mandatory minimums, inequality in public defense, and a variety of other problems associated with the prison and criminal justice systems. I read books by prisoners and mined newspapers for stories about prisons. I conducted interviews with prisoners and prison artists and I visited a jail in order to better understand the physical and psychological ramifications confinement. I created a series of paintings about the issues I encountered in my research. In these paintings I explored how the problems of the Panopticon and the prison system can be best depicted visually. I hope that my research and new works will inspire my audience to continue their own critique of prisons and to push for positive change both in and outside of prison walls. Sampling of paintings

Advisor

Linda Besemer

Department

ahva

Support

Ford Research Fellowship

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