Posts Tagged ‘needlework’

Arts in the prison scene…..Inez Walker, Leonard Peltier, and Ray Materson

First off sorry for the length of this article but I found these artists to be fascinating not only for their artwork, but for their personal histories!

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Inez Walker and Leonard Peltier were both found guilty in a court of law for murdering someone and both turned to art as a therapy and outlet during their time in prison. Ray Materson also spent a significant amount of prison where he picked up needlework.

This first set of pictures belong to the artist Inez Walker. Walker led a hard life. She was born into  poverty in Sumter, South Carolina in the year 1911. Her family gave her up and she became an orphan at a young age. At age sixteen she married, had some children, and moved to Philadelphia during a time. In the 1960s she was found guilty of killing a man. It is assumed the man beat her often, but she ended up in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for negligent homicide. She took an art class and began to draw, also an attempt to isolate herself from the rough and tough girls of the prison.

Inez Walker was released in 1972. Many works deal with the bad girls of the prison! She got married again in 1975 and passed away quietly in 1990. She was excited to share her art with anyone that wished to see it.

Inez Walker has works in Museums in the United States, Switzerland, and France.

A link to a great website telling the story of Inez Walker.

http://www.inezwalker.com/

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Leonard Peltier was a leader in the A.I.M. or American Indian Movement in the 1970s. Peltier was born in 1944 and was raised mainly by grandparents in North Dakota. He would eventually live in Seattle, Washington and own an auto mechanic shop. Peltier joined a movement called A.I.M. American Indian Movement. On a reservation in South Dakota a newly elected President Richard Wilson, was seen to have gotten the job via intimidation, violence, and even starting a private militia to intimidate voters.

Wilson stood trial but was not found guilty to the dismay of Peltier and other members of his movement. This led to back and forth incidents in which more than sixty A.I.M. members were killed in a few short years. Even the federal government got involved.

In 1976 some F.B.I. agents went looking for a suspect on the Pine Ridge Reservation wanted for assault and theft. After locating the vehicle they came under intense fire. The agents called in for backup and waited. No help came in time and the shooters were able to get off more than 120 shots. Peltier was one of the shooters and started to flee across the country landing on the F.B.I.s most wanted list. He would eventually end up in Canada where he was turned in by a female witness later found out to have been told what to say to the court by the F.B.I. men. She was threatened severely. Later it was revealed that she wasn’t at the shooting and didn’t even know Peltier before he fled to Canada.

A great painting by Peltier.

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Peltier is serving two consecutive life terms and is still behind bars. He sells paintings to help cover his defense and legal fees.If he wasn’t behind bars I am sure he would be among the most sought after native american painters in the country. I found it interesting the rifle that was key behind his guilty verdict is the same rifle we read about daily in the papers, the AR-15. Below is the car from the shootout with the Feds and Peltier.

Peltier has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize award nine times.

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A link to a website featuring art for sale by Leonard Peltier.

http://www.leonardpeltierart.com/

In this clip we see some photographs of the artist, a cover for a movie made about the story of Leonard Peltier, and some of his wonderful paintings starting at 43 seconds into the clip. Peltier was able to attain a high level of skill with his paintings which rival those of other famous Native American painters such as T.C. Carson or R.C. Gorman. Peltier is still incarcerated.

Ray Materson began crafting needlework during his stay in prison. Materson was born into a family that had many drugs and alcohol users. He started using himself as a teen. Materson eventually became a cocaine addict and to support his habit stole a toy gun from a retail store and completed many robberies. Materson was found guilty and even then tried to escape from jail! He was caught and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Whilst there he collected used and dirty socks using them to create his needlework. Upon his release in 1995 the artist has only increased his skill. Some works can contain as many as 1,200 stitches per square inch.

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Below a clip from an appearance by Ray Materson on CBS.

A link to Ray Materson’s own website:

http://www.raymaterson.com/

Another artist to check out never spent a night in jail, but I love the works of this artist! His name is Martin Wong and this work has to do with tatoos and prison. I have posted about Wong often as he was a key figure in the street/ graffiti art movement, amassed a great collection, then donated it to the city of New York. He passed away in 1999 of A.I.D.S.

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Andy Warhol did some wonderful works with this theme including the movie Prison. Prison was a film that featured such Andy Warhol All Stars as Edie Sedgwick and Sandy Kirkland. The story was about tales that happen while behind bars as was told to Andy by Bibbe Hanson.

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