all images and content © Lori Loveberry George

PRISON PORTRAITURE

The selected portfolio of drawings and paintings are from the 2014 exhibit, In Your Face, the Power of Portraiture. This series of portraits was inspired by Bruce Jackson's book, Pictures From a Drawer, Prison Art and the Power of Portraiture (2009). For his book, University of Buffalo professor Jackson used digital technology to restore and enlarge early 20th century prison mugshots from Arkansas State Penitentiary to create photographic portraits of prisoners.

 

I was intrigued by the haunting mug shots of men and women, young and old, black and white. Some in prison stripes, some in suits and others in ill-fitting, tattered clothes. Some had numbers, none had names. I questioned their identity, societal displacement, and crimes that led to incarceration in early 20th century impoverished Arkansas. What was their story? Did they actually commit crime at all? Or was it as simple as stealing food. Or perhaps violent? Whatever their crimes, I needed to restore their element of humanity that was stripped from them during their incarceration through explorative mark making of their dignity, fear, and vulnerability.

 

I began imagining their stories with drawings - beginning and sometimes finishing them upside down. This gave them a distorted ambiguity most appropriate of their incarceration. How does their human qualities reflect our own?  These images became a mirror, an exploration into my own flaws, fears, vulnerabilities, and humanity. Qualities one is typically afraid to see and acknowledge. Paintings were executed larger than life to command attention and introspectively confront viewers.

 

Like mirrors, reflecting themselves.