This Thing I Feel, This Hungry Thing

Oil Pastel on Acrylic on Canvas

So I’ve been a part of a group that facilitates art workshops in prisons around the state of Michigan, as part of the PCAP project.

As an experience, of course, it has been incredibly enriching but more than that, it has been emotionally exhausting. By meeting inmates at such a close level, I not only found myself questioning the things I had taken for granted for myself, but also, found myself trying to imagine myself in their situation often.

How would I feel to be treated as almost inhuman? As an animal, all caged up and expecting to be corrected? We forget the reasons of crime and as a society enforce a punitive justice system that forces us to look at justice as revenge.

I painted, in response.  A poem by an inmate published in Judith Tannenbaum’s book of prison poetry and her experience titled ‘Disguised as a Poem’ , really appealed me to me and I decided to express that visually.

The poem by an inmate named ‘Elmo’, goes:

“How can I give this thing

a  name?

This thing inside of me

This thing I feel

It is a hungry thing

and my greatest fear

is that it wants to

consume me.

How do I fight this thing?

This crafty thing

which moves in and out of me

like a tide

moves through me

with the force of radiation

deadly but unseen

How shall I fight thins thing?

And how much of it shall remain

when the battle

is finally over?”

Ganesha is the destroyer of fear, of evil, we believe. Ganesha, the elephant God that frames the picture with butterfly wings behind him. Darkness suppresses, threatening to overtake in the sides.

I was deeply inspired by Judith Tannenbaum, the author of ‘A Place to Stand’. Highly recommend reading about her.

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