In Arizona, where I live and work, ideas of the Old West still set the tone for a harsh and punitive culture of incarceration. In this context, I have produced long-term large-scale projects bringing together disparate constituencies of the criminal justice world. In 2011, It’s not just black and white at ASU Art Museum consciously wrestled with the visual motifs (striped uniforms, pink underwear, chain gangs) of Arizona’s infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Beginning as a collaboration with 14 inmates, the project grew to encompass 52 related events, 37 institutional and community partners, and nearly 20,000 visitors. Exploring creative processes as catalysts for social change, my smaller projects often organize frameworks for individuals directly affected by the system—those sentenced as juveniles to life in Pennsylvania, or men on death row in Tennessee. Together we create artwork connecting them with communities and initiating discourse around charged social problems without easy answers.
While At Headlands
Creating some distance from my intense Arizona-based work involving its culture of incarceration, I will work on refining ideological and aesthetic frames for a new multi-year investigation into challenges faced by individuals reentering society after periods of incarceration. This project-based work will bring together key stakeholders, such as the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated, probation officers, politicians, victims, and affected
family members, to reconsider their understandings of re-entry and their relationships to one another. These components will become a series of discrete projects, including a book, that will expand my research while incrementally building trust and investment among stakeholder constituencies over the long term. Additionally, I plan to work with specific communities in the Bay Area that are deeply and uniquely invested in successful re-entry and advocacy for the fair treatment of formerly incarcerated individuals. Through periodic off site meetings and work sessions, I hope to build mutually beneficial relationships.
It’s not just black and white: a 5 min introduction with artist Gregory Sale from Gregory Sale on Vimeo.