This exhibition debuts Nigel Poor’s San Quentin Project and presents personal narratives about life inside prison through visual documents, photographs, and an acclaimed podcast. The project’s visual documents were made collaboratively by Nigel Poor (American, b. 1963) and the men incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, the photographs are from the prison’s archive, and the audio, from Ear Hustle, is a podcast featuring stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it.
Begun in 2011, The San Quentin Project has evolved from Poor’s experience teaching visual literacy at the prison for the Prison University Project. Tracing the evolution of her social practice, from mapping exercises to essays and interviews, the work in this exhibition utilizes personal narrative to illuminate and counter common stereotypes the public might have about prison populations.
The San Quentin Project not only invites audiences to consider how images of prisoners have been codified, but also seeks to promote the critical reading of cultural codes and power structures inherent within visual images. Ultimately, the project hopes to raise awareness of the overwhelming benefits arts and humanities offer to incarcerated individuals and the communities they will re-enter. A three-day symposium, co-organized with Marquette University, will envision the role of the arts in criminal justice reform by inviting scholars and artists to Milwaukee to address these issues.
Organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum