A selfie screenshot on a Zoom call with Cyd Berger in August, 2020, in front of Cardinalis Lobelia. I'm working on a new portrait series that is stylistically more iconic, similar in spirit to my recent painting of Lacey My savvy subjects, women sentenced to life without parole, have endured decades of incarceration with courage and grace.
The year 2020 has initiated radical change in my painting. I began the year painting grids, in part because of the Zoom phenomenon. This quickly shifted to FierceTime in response to the George Floyd murder and the awakening of white communities. This shifted to the FleshTime Series.
About the FleshTime Series: Since the early 1980’s, I use only four colors to mix every shade of flesh: zinc white, ivory black, cadmium yellow light and cadmium red deep. My experience after over 40 years of painting hundreds of portraits, many of people of color, is that these, in varied combinations, accurately represent any human skin tone.
The 2020SOS FleshTime Series is a developing series, using this palate, of protest paintings, abstract paintings and portraits of the life-sentenced women with whom I have collaborated for decades. In addition, I am composing video portraits of the women, using my method of pairing their voice with my developing portraits. Their thoughts and experiences of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons will serve as evidence of a cruel politicized entity that needs reform.
In the early 1990's, I was the Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society Arts and Humanities Program. The experience awakened me to the extreme cruelty of mass incarceration. I learned that in Pennsylvania all life-sentences are issued without parole. In 1990, I started a program at the State Correctional Institutions at Graterford and Muncy to bring visibility to a group of exceptional men and women sentenced to life without parole. The participants were selected by each institution's administration and staff with one criterion: participants long deserved to be pardoned. The goals of the program were to bring them visibility through portraiture and to support them in a successful commutation process. I trained with the Pardons Case Manager, attending all of the monthly Board of Pardons hearings in Harrisburg over a 12 month period. I developed a practical understanding of the workings of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.
Individuals and their loved ones who have lived the inhumanity of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardon policy can most competently lead a reformed Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. They are the authorities, qualified to advise how to create and implement humane structures, supportive of those who have unjustly suffered the cruelty of mass incarceration and warehousing.