Daniel R. Duron is an Organizational Studies major in Pitzer’s Inside/Out BA program at the California Rehabilitation Center. The younger of his mother’s two children, Daniel is deeply fond of his family, and loves both his mother and sister dearly. He is grateful for this opportunity to express himself productively, saying, “I have always felt excluded and discriminated against because of my heritage, and I know whole lot of other people feel the same. I hope this manifesto inspires inclusivity. Thank you.”

Ursa Major

Chaos rained, the day you came
A hundred different lives you laid claim
And now I go home, to an empty space
A hundred different losses I have to face

So three set out to find you
Guided by a full moon
They found you there in the sky
A grizzly bear with piercing eyes

Ursa Major, great bear of no fear
Your blood paints our trees
About once every year
No matter how far I go
I know you’ll always appear
Oh, I love you so
Oh, I hate to go

They go far, to track you down
Paw prints emerge from the ground
To the highest peak, they climb it all
And straight into the sky they all fall

So we set out to find them
We came back empty handed
Three more losses we mourned
As three new stars had been born

Ursa Major, you’re all that I see
No other constellation means as much to me
No matter how far I go I’ll always know your worth
I’ll find you again real soon
Where the lights touch the earth

Ursa Major, great bear of no fear
Your blood paints our trees
About once every year
No matter how far I go
I know you’ll always appear
Oh, I love you so
Oh, I hate to go

About the artist:
GiGi is a 20-year old, American Indian artist and actress, born and raised just outside of San Francisco. GiGi’s American Indian heritage has always been a large part of who she is, and now she is sharing and honoring her culture through song. What started as drawings of constellations and a few chord progressions has taken off. GiGi’s music enthusiastically re-tells the stories that she loved as a kid and gives voice to new stories that deserve to be heard. As a solo artist, she writes and produces all her own music, and is now debuting her first single, Ursa Major. “Honor the land you are on, and share our stories, so that they will not be forgotten.”

“I hope that this song brings you comfort and light in a time of revolution. Ursa Major is based on the story of The Celestial Bear from the Iroquois tribe. Let it be a reminder that we are still here. Aheeiyeh, my friends.”
GiGi Buddie, PO ’22

The Black Panther Party Ten Point Plan

The Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Plan, authored more than 50 years ago, continues to resonate today.  For a historical perspective on the goals outlined in The Ten Point Plan, in 1966, and recent data on racial equity, we recommend this story at Oakland North.

disp[LA]ced Magazine


Alex Reyes and Linnea Rosenberg, disp[LA]ced, 2018, multimedia. Courtesy of Gina Lamb, Visiting Associate Professor of Media Studies.

Curatorial Intern Project #4: Jessica Sass ’22: Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration

Virtual Exhibition: Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration

Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration explores how art uses the power of creativity to shape opinion and provide incarcerated people a medium of healing.  This is true for the subject of incarceration, as it is for any other issue. New platforms such as art help to elevate the discussion surrounding incarceration, erase the stigma, and break the cycle of hegemonic stereotypes. Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration follows the journey of one man in the system who utilized artistic expression to confront his trauma and understand his own accountability. The exhibition is a story about the process of healing. The artworks showcased communicate ideas that extend far beyond the canvas. These artworks are rooted in this ongoing journey and express hope for unification of society, for the perpetrator and for the victim.

Stan Hunter, the artist showcased in Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration, shares a deep passion for art as a rehabilitation tool. He says, “a paintbrush changed the trajectory of my life.” Stan was released from his 30-year sentence in January 2019, however, his artistry and community was built long before his release. Stan was introduced to “the power of a paintbrush.” Yet, he found his calling with his paintbrush in hand being able to paint the trajectory of his life after prison. Initially, art was a selfish pursuit he said, to find solace and a way to connect with his family while he was incarcerated. He soon realized the importance of sharing “the power” among other inmates and collectively, transforming prison walls.

The works in Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration are realistic portraits of animals that were made for his children. While each work was created with the intention of connecting to his children, the work became much more meaningful. Breaking down the hierarchies in nature of man being above all lends itself to the idea of healing. Our society creates boundaries, enforcing a clear separation and hierarchy. In Stan’s eyes, we must break down those boundaries in order to authentically experience healing and equity. 

Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration is curated by Jessica Sass, a second year student at Pitzer College majoring in Media Studies and Political Studies. Her curatorial lens channels Stan Hunter’s complex world view and his belief in art as a tool for rehabilitation and self-healing. These ideas are reflected in the captions for each animal portrait, which are Sass’ interpretation of his work and her understanding of his journey. The works are painted in a hyper-realist style and are universally accessible.

Friday, May 8,  2020, 10:45 a.m., PST
Programming for Radical Learning Beyond Incarceration includes a virtual artist talk with Stan Hunter, followed be a brief Q & A. We hope that you will join us on Zoom for this event.

To view the virtual exhibition in slide show format, with Jessica Sass’ accompanying text, click on any of the images below.

The 2020 Curatorial Internship Project #4 by Jessica Sass ’22 is the fourth chapter in the ongoing series of art exhibitions realized through the Curatorial Apprenticeship course created and taught by Ciara Ennis, PhD., Pitzer College Art Galleries Director and Pitzer College Head of Curatorial Affairs.


No Single Sources 2020 Senior Thesis Virtual Art Exhibition

May 7-29, 2020
2020 Senior Thesis Virtual Art Exhibition

Nicholas Endicott, Cassie (Yizhen) Li, Izzy Manson, Grace Russell, Eliza Schmidt, Sophia Silane, Kieran Silva, Eve Sperling, Ingrid Topp-Johnson, and Nancy Xing, and Solánas Yaya

Nick Endicott

Nick Endicott is an artist by nature. His work is always changing. In the past four years, it has included animation, fashion, digital collage, video, drag, content creation for social media, oil painting, vocal performance, photography, scenic design, sculpture, event planning, and long-form comedy improvisation. In his senior thesis project, he is at last breaking into the world of e-commerce.

Nick Endicott, Coat (in progress), 2020, coat and hanger, dimensions variable


Cassie (Yizhen) Li

In her thesis project, Cassie (Yizhen) Li explores various emotions in this chaotic time through a series of non-narrative animated videos in relation to reality and augmented reality. In a reflection of the impact of technology on our daily lives and the conception of “home”, she focuses on the dramatic perspectives that address the different states of mind in relation to nature, the universe, and the internet.

Cassie (Yizhen) Li, To the X we will never get, 2020, digital video


Izzy Manson

Izzy Manson’s Senior Thesis project grew out of the artist’s personal experience of riding horses, which she did daily for all of her childhood and young adulthood. horses cannot see red explores themes of care, fear, freedom and control all of which are inherent aspects of equestrianism.

Izzy Manson, Two girls watching the filly be born, 2020, archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches


Grace Russell

Drawing inspiration from artists such as Salvador Dali and Robert Yarber, Grace Russell’s work engages in a play between the real and the imagined. Informed by Surrealism, as well as strains of contemporary painting that employ unnatural color schemes, disorienting subject matter, and cartoonish elements, her two dimensional works present critiques of society, politics, and philosophy.

Grace Russell, Looking Forward, 2020, acrylic on four plywood panels, 48 x 60 inches


Eliza Schmidt

Eliza Schmidt is a Brooklyn born, LA-based artist interested in the confluence of art, craft, life, and sustainable design. Focusing on materiality, domestic histories, and archival practices, her work addresses global themes of climate change, utopia, belonging, and gender. Schmidt has an innate desire to listen and to tell stories, experimenting with a myriad of mediums to support the message.

Eliza Schmidt with Barbara Drake, I see the women so very very strong, 2020, digital book (detail, selected pages). Design and panoramic photographs by Eliza Schmidt


Sophia Silane

Sophia Silane’s Senior Thesis project addresses themes of permanence, control, and lack thereof in one’s home through disorienting ink drawings comprising a stop motion video. In an attempt to preserve memories, these drawings depict suburban plants and architecture, familiar and fragile visions that remain in a constant state of demolition and transformation.

Sophia Silane, Lakefront, 2020, series of 81 images (detail), ink on newsprint, stop motion


Kieran Silva

Kieran Silva’s thesis project comprises a video documenting the artist’s performance, completed in the spring of 2020 amid the COVID-19 quarantine. In the video, Kieran is seen grazing on an expanse of grass, imitating the action of mowing. Behind the artist, a slideshow displays domestic landscapes found in his family photo album, and photographs of warehouses in the eastern, industrial section of Riverside, California.

Kieran Silva, Consumed Landscape #1, 2020, iPhone video, 3:57 minutes


Eve Sperling

Pulling from a vocabulary of historical attire and interior design, Eve Sperling’s work explores the ways in which history and luxury have been displayed in the home space, and the boundaries between the living and inanimate beings that now occupy her sight in quarantine. Heavily influenced by theories of the uncanny, she casts her living spaces as disturbingly familiar sights.


Ingrid Topp-Johnson

Ingrid Topp-Johnson’s senior thesis project, As It Stands Now, diarizes and stylizes the artist’s adaptation as she returned to her childhood home in Minnesota, from her life as a student in Southern California, on the eve of her graduation. As It Stands Now, which takes the form of a downloadable PDF, is a meditation on uncertainty, messianic hope, and the role of intention in creating the self.

Ingrid Topp-Johnson, As Things Stand (for Ingrid ToppJohnson at least), 2020, digital work

Nancy Xing

Envisioned as a Digital App concept, Nancy Xing’s senior thesis project is designed to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle as they adjust to the public health requirements of social distancing due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Nancy Xing, User Research, 2020


Solánas Yaya

Solánas Yaya is a manifestor, a Trans-Atlantic Afro-Indigenous artist, botanist, poet, shapeshifter, and universe traveler. Solánas’ work focuses on bringing spirituality, healing, and a Black Indigenous Queer Femme-centric lens to the forefront of art. They work through Earth vibrational-based energies and hope to take you on a journey to their imagined commune.

Solánas Yaya, Trip to the Commune / Psilocybin, 2020, Digital Photograph

Hans Baumann

Hans Baumann: 5 Distillations (Salton Sea)

In 2017, Hans Baumann initiated a long-term artistic collaboration with the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians to measure the disappearance of the Salton Sea from their sovereign tribal lands in the Coachella Valley. Although it is the largest body of water in California, the Salton Sea scarcely registers in the public consciousness and, when it does, it is as a miasmatic blight. By 2030, one-third of the Sea will have disappeared, leaving behind vast expanses of dusty playa contaminated by agricultural runoff and industrial effluents. These low-lying desert lands have been the homeland of the Cahuilla since time immemorial, and the future of the tribal community is inextricably linked to the future of this landscape. This collaboration is an attempt to reflect upon the complex socio-ecological dynamics responsible for the Sea’s existence and to engage with—but not intervene upon—the entropic processes of the Sea’s decline.

5 Distillations (Salton Sea) is a meditation upon time spent in these environs and an attempt to reframe the trajectory of the Sea’s collapse. At nearly 300 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea is a terrain of perpetual accumulation, its topographical confines a microcosm of our planetary future: it is a landscape of hybrid confusion in which intense ecological dysfunction is counteracted by the stubborn vitality of the biosphere. Here, rare birds nest among abandoned household appliances, and innumerable microorganisms prosper in nutrient-rich drainage canals.Stretches of shoreline are covered with the skeletal remains of tilapia from Mozambique, and verdant orchards foreground brown desert mountains. To the Western mind, these moments are unsettling because they are so comprehensively anthropogenic. This is not Nature as we conceive it, and so the Sea’s immense capacity for life is problematized and cast as dysfunctional. Yet the unbalanced ecosystem of the Salton Sea has value;it is not merely a domain of crisis. 5 Distillations (Salton Sea) presents an alternative narrative for this place: a continuum of cultural and physiographic systems with no precise origin, no definitive end and no moral connotations.

Related Event:

February 28 and 29, 2020, Benson Auditorium
Symposium, “Sovereignty Expanded: Indigenous Geographies of the Contemporary American West”

This event takes place on the ancestral homelands of the Tongva people. Funding generously provided by the Antipode Foundation, the Robert Redford Conservancy and the Office of the Dean of Faculty at Pitzer College.

Candice Lin

Natural History: A Half-Eaten Portrait, an Unrecognizable Landscape, a Still, Still Life

January 25 – March 26, 2020

The exhibition will comprise a full-scale ceramic representation of Candice Lin reclining with her future cat. Lin’s monumental ceramic sculpture references the history of clay sarcophagi, specifically the Etruscan terracotta funerary sculptures from the 9th through 2nd centuries BCE, famously life-sized and often featuring a man and a woman reclining together. Renowned for their naturalistic representations of the human form, Etruscans practiced the tradition of interring the body, with animal companions or objects that held particular significance to the deceased, within a sarcophagus. Lin imagines housing her own decomposing body and that of the cat that she lives with at the time of her death within this sculptural memento mori. In addition to exploring ideas around mortality and interment, Lin’s installation considers existence and futurity from a post-human perspective by linking the longevity of clay—the life-span of fired ceramics can be thousands of years—with other organic life-cycles. Like historical sarcophagi, where the outstretched limbs of the figures would have once held vessels containing foods or precious objects, Lin’s sculpture will portray her and her cat accompanied by vessels containing preserved plants, seeds, and minerals.

Complementing the life-size sarcophagus (self-portrait of Lin and her cat), are a series of illuminated glass aquariums, set onto metal stands. Mimicking museological display cases, these vitrines house colonies of Dermestid “flesh-eating” beetles, which will consume a series of works resembling human bones. These objects have been fabricated from a commercial meat-paste substitute combined with Lin’s own dried skin and fingernails. Used in museums for cleaning bones and carcasses for display and research, these carnivorous insects have been employed by Lin to suggest an effective interspecies collaboration—a subject that underpins much of Lin’s practice. By cultivating this family of beetles, which over generations will learn to survive and thrive on this diet, Lin creates a sub-population predisposed to thrive while her own body decays. Requiring constant caretaking, and the harvesting of her own skin, these beetles serve as active reminders of our mortality.

The materials used by Lin are part of her ongoing research into the histories of colonial trade objects such as porcelain, silk, opium, abortifacient plants, poisons, and cochineal in relation to discourses around whiteness, exoticism, race, and othering. While earlier works focused on the acquisition and exploitation of non-Western botanical and biological processes, this exhibition examines the institutional framing by museums of historical artefacts and organic material—be they sarcophagi or body parts—through their collection and display technologies and by doing so reveals how these systems configure knowledge.


Artists at Work: Candice Lin, by Silvi Naçi, in East of Borneo

Review: Candice Lin, by Kay Whitney, in Sculpture magazine

Related Events:

Thursday, Feb 20, 1:45 p.m.
Artist lecture, co-hosted by Ceramics department and Pitzer College Art Galleries
Nichols Gallery

Thursday, February 27 1:45 p.m.
Candice Lin in conversation with Kyla Wazana Tompkins, professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at Pomona College
Nichols Gallery

Ashley Hunt: Degrees of Visibility

September 14 – December 6, 2019

Opening Reception: September 14 from 2–4 p.m.

Ashley Hunt’s current project, Degrees of Visibility, is a large body of landscape photographs made in locations throughout the fifty U.S. states and territories, which documents the spaces in which prisons are embedded. Observed from publicly accessible points of view, Hunt’s photographs look at how prisons are presented and camouflaged within our everyday perception and how they contribute to an aesthetics of mass incarceration.

This body of work is part of Hunt’s ongoing examination of how images, objects, maps, writing and performance can engage social ideas and actions, including those of social movements, daily life, the exercise of political power, and the disciplinary boundaries that separate our art worlds from the larger worlds in which they sit. His work looks to structures that allow people to accumulate power, and those which keep others from getting it, while learning from the ways people come to know, contribute to or resist these structures. Rather than seeing art and activism as two exclusive spheres of practice, he approaches them as mutual and complementary—drawing upon the ideas and aesthetics of social movements, cultural theory and art alike, the theorizing and practices of each informing the other.

Recent exhibitions and performances include the performance and book, Notes on the Emptying of a City, a dismantled film that recounts his time in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Communograph, a multi-platform project with Project Row Houses in Houston; the ongoing collaboration with taisha paggett, On Movement, Thought and Politics; the collaborative 9 Scripts from a Nation at War, produced for documenta 12 with Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, Katya Sander and David Thorne; and the Corrections Documentary Project, the ongoing body of work addressing the aesthetics and politics of prison expansion and mass incarceration in the U.S., including ten video works, photographic works and mappings that span sixteen years of research, production and organizing.

Additionally, Hunt has exhibited at the Cue Art Foundation, Threewalls Gallery in Chicago, The Kitchen in New York, the 2012 Made in L.A. Biennial of the Hammer Museum, Sinopale 4 biennale in Sinop, Turkey, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, Woodbourne State Correctional Institute in upstate New York, Putnamville Correctional Institution in Indiana, and numerous grassroots and community venues throughout the U.S. Recent writing has appeared in X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly (2014), Native Strategies issue 4 (2014), Shifter Magazine #20 (2013).

Hunt is on the faculty of California Institute of the Arts and was on the faculty of the Visual Arts MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts 2008–2016.

Conversation Series and Related Events

Critical Resistance presents Los Angeles for Abolition: Dismantling Jails and Building Liberation with Ruth Wilson Gilmorewith Robin D.G. Kelley, Sarah Haley, Michael Saavedra, Azadeh Zohrabi

Saturday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m., Watts Labor Community Action Center, 10950 S Central Ave, Los Angeles,

On Art and Organizing, a conversation with Ashley Hunt and Jess Heaney of Critical Resistance

Thursday, September 19 at 8:00 p.m., Lenzner Family Art Gallery, Pitzer College, 1050 N Mills Avenue, Claremont.

Jess Heaney (Scripps College ’08 and 2018 Scripps College Outstanding Recent Alumna) and Ashley Hunt will discuss Degrees of Visibility and Hunt’s work with Critical Resistance against the current landscape of abolition in Southern California.

Critical Resistance and The Claremont Colleges Prison Abolition Club present a two part symposium: Intro to Prison-Industrial Complex Abolition

Friday, September 20,  3:00-6:00 p.m., and Abolition of Policing, Saturday, September 21,  1:00-4:00 p.m., The Hive, Studio 2, 130 E 7th Street, Claremont. RSVP: [email protected]

California Coalition of Women Prisoners presents Gender Violence Behind Bars: Tactics of Resistance

Thursday, October 10 at 7:00 p.m., Women’s Center for Creative Work, 2425 Glover Place, Los Angeles.

Taylor Lytle, Michaé Pulido, Fatima Malika Shabazz and Rojas, moderated by Alisa Bierria, will speak about their experiences of gendered violence while incarcerated, followed by a discussion with organizers from CCWP and audience members on how to fight for women and gender-non-conforming individuals behind bars.

Taylor Lytle is an organizer with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and a national Peer 2 Peer Fellow. Taylor is a former foster care youth and formerly incarcerated, having been caged as a youth and later at the California Institution for Women (CIW), one of California’s state prisons. Upon her release from prison, Taylor has dedicated herself to ending the prison industrial complex. She’s a talented poet and uses her craft to advocate for women still behind bars.

Stacy Rojas is an organizer with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and the Young Women’s Freedom Center. Rojas was incarcerated for 15 years at the Central California Women’s Facility.

Michaé is a queer, trans, Latinx community connector, artist, and skill sharer born and raised in Los Angeles. She currently works as the policy coordinator at the TransLatin@ Coalition, where she is working to change the landscape for trans-inclusive legislation statewide and nationally. Navigating this world post-gender, Michaé sees the direct impact of a corrupt social, economic, and political system that hurts those that choose to not live abiding by the norm. They believe it is their responsibility to uplift the real experiences of the trans community, not just what is glamorized. In becoming more fluent in the policy process, she brings information about the system back to her community and works to improve conditions for future generations of Black, Brown, indigenous, queer, and trans people.

Fatima Malika Shabazz is a 55 year-old formerly incarcerated Transwoman, LGBTQ Social Activist and criminal justice reform and restorative justice advocate belonging to several different organizations: All of us or none; Time done; Advisory Board member for Prison health news; Black and pink LA; Ceo/President of Fatima Speaks LLC. She seeks to create safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ men and woman, as well as to create policies that ensure the enforcement of laws that should protect the trans population.

Alisa Bierria is a co-founder of Survived and Punished, a member of INCITE!, and an Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Riverside.

Practicing Abolition 1: Thoughts = Conversations = Knowledge

Sunday, October 13, 2:00-4:00 p.m., NAVEL, 1611 S Hope Street, Los Angeles.

Practicing Abolition will explore how research, education, conversations, organizing, collaboration, ethics and boundaries can contribute to a complementary practices of abolition and creativity.

Panel and discussion organized by gloria galvez, with Micah Bournes, Jasmine Nyende, Shabina Toorawa, Ellie Virrueta, and performances by Ra Avis and Cole M James.

Critical Resistance LA presents Abolition is Ongoing: Reportback from the campaign to stop Los Angeles jail construction

Saturday, October 19, 1:00-3:00 p.m., Southern California Library, 6120 S Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles.

CRLA and partners defeated two huge plans for a $3 billion in jail construction this year! How to ensure that LA County follows through. Learn about what is next and how to get involved.

Related Event: Dancing Through Prison Walls

Friday, November 8, 8:00-9:30 p.m., Garrison Theater at Scripps College, 231 E 10th Street, Claremont.

Scripps College Department of Dance Faculty Suchi Branfman explores the prison industrial complex through several pieces inspired by her five-year choreographic residency at California Rehabilitation Center, a medium-security men’s state prison in Norco, California.

This Scripps College program is presented in partnership with the Holmes Performing Arts Fund, Justice Education at the Claremont Colleges, and Scripps Presents.

Practicing Abolition 2: Knowledge = Skill Shares = Practices

Saturday, November 9, 1:30 p.m., Lenzner Family Art Gallery, Pitzer College, 1050 N Mills Avenue, Claremont. 

Join us for an opportunity to see Degrees of Visibility and participate in a workshop that builds on ideas presented in Practicing Abolition 1 (October 13). From Los Angeles, meet at Chuco’s Justice Center at 11:00 a.m., where there will be a brief tour, and carpool to Pitzer College for the exhibition and workshop in the Lenzner Family Art Gallery at 1:30 p.m. RSVP required: [email protected]

Carceral Geographies of Southern California

Thursday, December 5, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Lenzner Family Art Gallery, Pitzer College, 1050 N Mills Avenue, Claremont. 

A roundtable with Vonya Quarles (Starting Over Inc & All of Us or None), Amber-Rose Howard (Californians United for a Responsible Budget), Hilda Cruz from (Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity), and Dylan Rodriguez (UC Riverside), and moderation by Ashley Hunt.

Critical Resistance LA presents: Annual Prisoner Solidarity Postcard Event and Holiday Book Sale

Saturday, December 7, 12:00-5:00 p.m., Southern California Library, 6120 S Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles.

Each year during the holidays, CR sends over 7,000 postcards to imprisoned supporters and readers of The Abolitionist newspaper. A family-friendly event with food, desserts, kids activities, live music and DJs.

Disruption! Art and the Prison Industrial Complex

Curated by Annie Buckley

Artists: Karla Diaz, Stan Hunter, Peter Merts, Javier Quintero, Tony Ramirez, Paul Rucker, Gregory Sale, Noelle Swan, Robert Yovanov

September 14 – December 6, 2019

Opening Reception: September 14 from 2–4 p.m.

Performance: Karla Diaz at 2:30 p.m.

Karla Diaz, Prison Gourmet, performanceKarla Diaz’s performance reflects her ongoing interest in social justice and the politics of food and is part of Diaz’s multimedia “Prison Gourmet” project, which features recipes created by people incarcerated in California using items found in the commissary.

The tragic facts of the history of incarceration in America are now widely recognized. That we imprison more people than anywhere else on the planet, for longer sentences, and in harsh conditions, is seen as a pressing problem across political aisles. Yet the trenchant issues of racial and economic injustice continue to plague a swollen system that ensnares millions of Americans. While incarcerated individuals are the most directly impacted, tendrils stretch into families and communities disproportionately impacted by violence and the criminal justice system. But the complexity of the system and efforts at reform are dwarfed by the cycle of trauma that inscribes and abets it. In the movement for prison reform, the expression “hurt people hurt people” has become a kind of mantra for a reason. Crime and its impacts are not individual issues but communal and familial ones, with deep roots in slavery, inequity, and domestic violence.

Where does art fit into all of this? How can the arts disrupt cycles of trauma and promote healing and connection, inspire education and social change? Within the strict confines and jagged social structure of the American prison system, art plays a particularly poignant and pressing role. It is often the only outlet an individual stripped of rights has to give voice to thoughts and ideas, memories and dreams. For contemporary artists beyond the walls, art can be a means to critique, dialogue, and imagine solutions to the intractable problems of the prison industrial complex.

Disruption! brings together artists directly impacted by the system with artists that address it in their work. The multimedia artist Paul Rucker’s immersive installation, Proliferation, 2005, demonstrates the social, geographical, political, and emotional impact of the growth of prisons in the United States from 1778 to 2005, making space for pause and reflection, while Peter Merts’ moving photographs of Arts in Corrections give voice to those trapped in the system and embody the power of the arts to cultivate joy, imagination, and freedom in the most restrictive environments. In a solitary cell, with nothing but the blue uniform on his back, Tony Ramirez uses precious morning coffee and a handmade brush to paint a series of portraits of his hero, President Barack Obama; also behind bars, Javier Quintero, innovates a painstakingly detailed drawing style to create photorealistic portraits of himself with his wife to mail to her.

Artists Gregory Sale and Karla Diaz each collaborate with system-impacted individuals and communities to create participatory performances and social practice works, respectively, that offer meaningful opportunities for connection, dialogue, and common ground. Photographer Noelle Swan explores the complex emotional layers of the impact of murder on her family and finds an unlikely avenue for healing in the restorative justice movement, where the incarcerated individuals that she meets connect deeply to her family tragedy. Stan Hunter similarly locates healing through art. Hunter taught himself to paint while incarcerated for 30 years. Recognizing the powerful impact art had on his own growth, Hunter began to teach others inside to paint. Now released, he is a Lead Teaching Artist with the Prison Arts Collective, taking the journey full circle.

Artist Bios

Karla Diaz is an artist, writer, educator, and activist born in Los Angeles and raised in both Mexico and L.A. Her multidisciplinary work questions institutional power, investigates language, explores cultural relationships, and provokes dialogue. She received her MFA from CalArts in 2004 and has published and exhibited her work in local, national, and international venues including MOCA, LACMA, MD2011 Medellin Colombia, Museo Cervantez in Spain, the Whitney in New York, the ICA in Boston, and the Serpentine Gallery in London. She is co-director and founding member of Slanguage Studio, an artist community space/collective, and has received several awards, notably a city of Los Angeles Arts Recognition Award and an Art Matters award for her “Prison Gourmet” project. She teaches at Cal State University Long Beach.

Stan Hunter is a practicing artist who taught himself to paint while incarcerated for over thirty years. Finding deep healing through art, he dedicated himself to sharing it with others and has supported numerous peers to find joy and meaning through art. He finds purpose in sharing his skills and artistic techniques with those who may be struggling to find their own purpose. Hunter is a founding member and lead teaching artist with the Prison Arts Collective.

Peter Merts has been a photographer for 40 years, specializing in fine art, documentary, and portrait styles. He has published, exhibited, and lectured in the US and abroad. For the past 12 years, Peter has documented California’s Arts in Corrections program—first as a volunteer, then under contract with the California Arts Council. He has photographed in all of California’s 36 adult state prisons and serves on the advisory board of the Prison Arts Collective. Peter co-published, with Dr. Larry Brewster, the book Paths of Discovery: Art Practice and Its Impact in California Prisons (now in its 2nd edition).

Javier Quintero is an artist that is currently incarcerated and serving four life sentences for crimes that he committed at age 15. He was sent to a maximum security prison at 17 and began to draw as a way to deal with a violent environment. Quintero explains that drawing “kept me sane” and, after many years behind bars, keeps him motivated and allows for enjoyment. In 2018, Quintero completed the Prison Arts Collective Facilitator Training. He often sends artwork to his wife, advocate Xochitl Quintero, who was instrumental in loaning pieces for this exhibition.

Tony Ramirez is an artist that is currently incarcerated in Ironwood State Prison. Ramirez paints, draws, and has been teaching others to do the same ever since he learned. He is well respected among his peers for his mentorship and innovation, evidenced in this exhibition by portraits made in coffee. Currently struggling with losing his eyesight, Ramirez is learning to play the guitar. Ramirez has also been a Peer Facilitator in the Prison Arts Collective since 2017.

Paul Rucker is a composer, musician, and visual artist who combines media, often integrating live performance, sound, video, animation, original compositions, storytelling, and visual art. His work is the product of a rich interactive process, through which he investigates community impacts, human rights issues, historical research, and basic human emotions surrounding particular subject matter. Much of his current work focuses on dismantling inequity in order to create positive change. Rucker has received numerous grants, awards, and residencies for visual art and music. Among many notable achievements are an award for Visual Art from the Creative Capital Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the first artist-in-residence at the National Museum of African American Culture, a residency at the Joan Mitchell Center, and a TED Fellow.

Artist Gregory Sale brings together a multitude of individuals implicated in and working with the criminal justice system. His projects organize frameworks of engagement for individuals directly affected by the system, connecting them with communities and encouraging reciprocal dialogue and mutual learning. His projects include It’s not just black and white (2011) at ASU Art Museum, and Future IDs at Alcatraz (2018-19) for the iconic prison turned National Park in San Francisco Bay. His work has received support from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Creative Capital, A Blade of Grass, and Andy Warhol Foundation. He teaches at Arizona State University.

Noelle Swan is a documentary and editorial photographer that uses still and video images in visual storytelling. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. In 2010, Noelle was a Critical Mass finalist for Life After Death, a body of work documenting the tragic effects of her sister’s murder, and in 2011, she was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize in Photography. Noelle is a founding member of SIX SHOOTERS, a group of six female photographers, and is currently focused on personal photographic projects, writing and restorative justice.

Robert Yovanov is an artist that is currently incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino. He became involved in the Community-based Art program, now the Prison Arts Collective, in 2013 and has been an active peer leader in the program ever since. He is a cartoonist and is learning to paint. He also teaches a popular Foundations in Art class with the Prison Arts Collective and continues to support the growing arts community at the institution.

About the Curator

Annie Buckley is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and curator with an emphasis on art and social justice and, since July 2019, the Director of the School of Art + Design at San Diego State University. She has written extensively about art for leading publications in the field including Artforum, Art in America, The Huffington Post, and KCET Artbound and is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Review of Books for which she writes the series, “Art Inside” about facilitating art programs in prisons. Annie is the founder of the Prison Arts Collective, a statewide program dedicated to expanding access to the transformative power of the arts through collaboration and mutual learning. She has received numerous grants and contracts to support this work, including from Arts in Corrections, an initiative of the California Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, CDCR Innovative Grants, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Paul Rucker, Proliferation, 2009, Video/Audio/Animation, Dimensions 11:30 Projected on Large Monitor
Paul Rucker, Proliferation, 2009/2012, Video/audio/animation, Dimensions: 11:30 projected on large monitor

Special Event:

Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artists & Scholars Lecture Series
Tuesday, December 3 at 4:15 p.m., Benson Auditorium, Pitzer College

Keynote Lecture by Father Gregory Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

Gregory Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

Related Events

* Please note: All exhibition events will take place on the Pitzer campus and in correctional institutions. Events on campus are open to the public. Events in corrections are by invitation.*

Thursday, September 26, 1:20 – 4 p.m., Pitzer College
The Actor’s Gang Reentry Project: Open Workshop/Performance of Commedia dell’Arte
The Actor’s Gang at the California Institution for Women, Sept 21 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Actors’ Gang Prison Project. Photo by Peter Merts

The Actors’ Gang Reentry Project will host an open workshop/performance of Commedia dell’Arte co-facilitated by formerly incarcerated alumni. Participants will experience the highly physical and emotional style of improvised theater taught by The Actors’ Gang Prison Project for the last thirteen years throughout California’s state prisons.

October 24, 1:20 – 4 p.m., Pitzer College
The Strindberg Laboratory and Kukunori co-lead a workshop together with over 50 organizations and individuals creating a world without labels and walls
Strindberg and Kukunori at the California Institution for Women, Oct. 24, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

No Labels, No Walls: Stindberg Laboratory and Kukunori, Finland

The Strindberg Laboratory joins with the Finnish group Kukunori and the international coalition, No Labels, No Walls, to conduct a theater art workshop to create flags for a world without labels and walls. The flags will represent the participants’ views on what it means to be free from stigma and in a world where equality is a reality. Join the movement!

November 21, 1:20 – 4:00 p.m., Pitzer College
Prison Arts Collective: Exhibition Walkthrough and Responsive Art Workshop
Prison Arts Collective at California Institution for Men, Nov. 8, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Prison Arts Collective team facilitating a community workshop.

The Prison Arts Collective will present a guided exhibition tour and responsive art workshop. Participants will gain insight into the meaning and experience of art in prison, engage in dialogue about the impact of art in the restorative justice movement, and create art and writing projects to reflect on the issues, narratives, and emotional responses to the exhibition.

This exhibition and related events are generously supported by the Justice Education Initiative at the Claremont Colleges, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artists and Scholars Endowed Fund; and Office of the Dean of Faculty at Pitzer College.

Links and Recommended Resources

Partners and Collaborators
Prison Arts Collective
Homeboy Industries
The Actors’ Gang Prison Project
Strindberg Laboratory: No Labels, No Walls

Criminal Justice in the United States
Fact Sheet, compiled by the NAACP
Criminal Justice Facts: The Sentencing Project
Criminal Justice Reform: Southern Poverty Law Center