Wynne "Prison Art" exhibit hopes to show the importance of art
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 22:09
The Wynne Home Art and Visitor’s center featured Prison Art in its rotating gallery on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The gallery was free and open to the public and was coordinated with the Wynne Home through Molly Campbell, a woman who taught art and dance in the male and female Huntsville Prison Units. She believes the art is important to the prisoners.
“It gave them a sense of freedom, and some people discovered talents they didn’t know they had,” Campbell said. “You get a view of the inner spirit of the artists who created these pieces and see that there is a sense of humanity even in those who maybe got off to the wrong start in life.”
Much of the displayed work was lent to the Wynne Home by prominent Huntsvillians, including Stephanie Smither, for this gallery. Friends of the Wynne also helped foot the cost of putting on this event. They are the reason many of the events held at the Wynne Home are free and open to the public.
SHSU’s Junior Fellows volunteered at the event, doing everything from greeting, serving food and even explaining some of the art. Junior Fellows frequently volunteer and one of the places they continuously volunteer is the Wynne Home. When this gallery came about, it was no doubt that they would help out.
Deanna Tyler, one of the Junior Fellows volunteers, was inspired by the prison art that she saw.
“It’s definitely interesting and unique. There are pieces you couldn’t even imagine making,” Tyler said. “There’s a lamp made out of matchboxes. It just goes to show that there are some talented inmates.”
Among the artists, the most famous were Frank Jones and Henry Ray Clark. Jones usually created works in blue and red because these were the only colors generally provided to him. He also had an affinity for drawing devilfish and many of them can be seen in his artworks.
Clark, donned the “Magnificent Pretty Boy” in both art and personal circles, made many of the art pieces featured in the gallery show as well. His art featured many colors and geometrically intricate spectacles. Much of his art also had a religious theme. He was taught by Molly Campbell during her time teaching at the Huntsville Unit.
Campbell recounts that Clark wanted her to teach him to draw faces and people. Campbell refused to do so saying “he would no longer be the talented individual that [he was] with [his] own original art.”
Campbell may have made the right choice, as Clark went on to have art featured in the Smithsonian and in New York.
One of the main reasons Campbell and others of those with the Wynne Home wanted to do a show like this was to put a spotlight on folk art.
Linda Pease, Cultural Service Coordinator for the City of Huntsville, said “No one was focused on folk art.”
Even though that is not what the artists were focused on, almost all art done in prisons is “folk” or self-taught art.
“It’s a shame to see that people with this much talent are incarcerated,” Pease said.
“I hope that in having this show here we can help people to understand why art is important, not only in schools,” said Campbell. “Many times with government, the first to go with budget cuts is art.”