INTERRUPTED LIFE: INCARCERATED MOTHERS IN THE UNITED STATES

 

Curated by Rickie Solinger
May 23 - September 23, 2011
Karl and Helen Burger Gallery


Above: Artwork by Susan Willmarth, 2005, from the Real Cost of Prisons Project.

 

Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States is an exhibition of
 eight linked installation pieces examining women’s experiences of incarceration alongside contemporary issues of human rights and social justice. The exhibit powerfully conveys the stark realities of incarceration, especially its impact on mothers and their children.

Interrupted Life has appeared at over 100 college and
 university galleries. The show premiered at a women’s prison, the California Institute 
for Women, in February 2006. Interrupted Life features artwork created by inmates as well as actual correspondence between an incarcerated mother and her daughter. In one installation screen printed prison shirts adorn a row of hangers, honoring the efforts of mother and child to continue to know each other. Within the dialogue that emerges tensions spring to vivid life as you begin to question a system which attempts to regulate affection. Imagery of the womb is a recurring motif and gives the show some of its resonance. Several of the works are steeped in the tradition of the graphic novel. The choice of such a populous medium a fitting reminder that we live in a country which jails a larger percentage of its population than any other nation in the world.

One out of every 109 women in America is incarcerated, on parole or probation.


Among the exhibition’s most haunting works is Kevin Pyle’s “Mapping the Lockup.” Timber columns surround a wooden African figure, reminiscent of the Yoruba fertility idols, eloquently alluding to issues of race and representation within the penal system. A shackle lies at the base of the sculpture. Each nail represents a prison and each shape represents a state. The piece illustrates the explosion of prison building across the country. Another work, titled “Prison Town,” charts America’s devolution into a prison economy, highlighting how commercial interests align to promote and develop correctional facilities.

"Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States, a beautiful and dramatic exhibition, provides a powerful occasion for paying attention to the facts and experiences of incarceration in the United States. Interrupted Life invites viewers to become educated, active community members, searching for further information and decent solutions to a major growing problem in U.S. society."
~Rickie Solinger, 
Curator

Curator Rickie Solinger describes herself as “a person who lives a sharply visual life,” intensely concerned with the history and politics of representation. Probing the inequities underlying the reality of life behind bars, “Interrupted Life” features timely social commentary woven throughout works of great visceral power. The exhibition runs through September 23 at the Karl & Helen Burger Gallery.