Reflective Equilibrium: a philosophical concept that refers to the final stage in a deliberative process of reflecting on and revising one’s moral beliefs and positions.
The exhibition Reflective Equilibrium will feature drawings, paintings, and mixed-media works by people imprisoned in a mid-Atlantic correctional facility. For the exhibiting artists, making work allows them to transcend the conditions of their incarceration, express emotions, and communicate their shared humanity to viewers, familiar and unfamiliar with the criminal justice system.
The purpose of this show is to encourage conversations that we have often been content to avoid, and to show that the light of humanity shines even in confinement. If we remain complacent, these stories and bodies of work remain invisible and inaccessible to the broader society of which these artists are still a part. If relegated to the shadows, difficult and distasteful issues of mass confinement, dehumanization, and mass recidivism often remain out of sight, out of mind, and unaddressed.
Our hope is that this exhibition will facilitate critical thinking and improve understandings of criminal justice systems and processes of rehabilitation and successful re-integration with society. The show will provide gallery visitors with views often overlooked, feared, or demonized.
The works in this exhibition derive from three activities: the Introductory Drawing class, Unit Art, and Personal Studio Time. The Introductory Drawing class is a twelve-week course taught by an inmate instructor that introduces students to principles of drawing. For the final project, students render drawings of a still life assembled from limited available materials. Successful completion of Introductory Drawing is a prerequisite for participation in the Unit Art Program, which allows individuals to work in their cells using basic drawing materials, and Personal Studio Time in the Leisure Center, which affords greater access to materials and time for artists to explore and discuss more advanced technical and conceptual issues.
We have already undertaken significant work to make this exhibition a success. We have identified participating artists and selected works, and a Philadelphia gallery has agreed to rent space for the event. The participating artists are excitedly writing and revising their artists’ statements, which will appear in a printed catalog and a website documenting the exhibition and opening reception. Kickstarter pledges will enable us to rent the gallery space, ship, mount, and stretch the works, produce the catalog, promote the exhibition, and host an opening reception. Reflective Equilibrium is intended for exhibition purposes only—featured works will not be for sale.
“Art provides a safe place to express ourselves and regain our autonomy under stressful conditions, in which one is vulnerable to the warping effects of mood and memory. Many of us rely on abstraction to lose track of time and place…It is the process of creation that allows us to escape our immediate conditions, re-establish a productive and empowered identity, and reclaim a positive life."
"In the life, I will create
In this life, I will let color carry me away
In this life, and only in this life, I will live"
“This is a plea to liberate the human spirit; to show the power of art…as experienced through the confined voices of conscience; to show that reform is possible; to show that we have made mistakes but we are still citizens before we are anything else. Our art bridges the divide between imprisoned individuals and society…We are not something "other" to be feared; we are your fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, and we all play an equal part in our shared condition called humanity."
We invite you to share in this collaborative endeavor and welcome your participation. Thank you.
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