“Art proliferates in prisons”, writes curator Nicole Fleetwood. People on the inside make art in all kinds of ways – to express their creative imaginations, to express freedom, as a form of self-validation, as gifts, commodities, memorials, and, simply, as objects of beauty. Most people on the outside do not have the opportunity to view the art made by incarcerated people that is displayed in cells, offices, recreational and art rooms, and other spaces inside prisons. In this exhibition, Maine-based photographers Trent Bell, Aaron Flacke, Séan Alonzo Harris, and Lesley MacVane record artwork in these spaces inside Maine’s five prison facilities. The art featured in their photographs, all created by incarcerated people, resists the isolating and dehumanizing dimensions of punitive confinement, offering a visual literacy of freedom and creativity, of selfhood and relationality. We hope this work might provoke a reconsideration about the use of punitive confinement to address social problems. What might abolition look like?
This project was made possible by the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, the Maine Department of Corrections, the Freedom and Captivity project, the generosity of Trent Bell, Aaron Flacke, Séan Alonzo Harris, and Lesley MacVane, and the Maine Humanities Council.