Art by human beings

Listen to this post:

My website and email got hacked recently, and it’s been a hassle and time suck to try to get back in order. (If you got 10,000 spam emails from me, it wasn’t me. But I’m sorry nonetheless.) On the phone with six tech support people, when I finally got to the website security folks, I was shocked how many different metaphors for “bad guys” the person helping me used.

I know what a website is. I know what files are that make up a website. I know what it means to have your website hacked. And yet this person could not stop setting up images for me of the bad guys lurking around my house, the bad guys looking in my windows and rifling through my files, the firewall as the cops there to stop the bad guys. “Enough,” I thought! “Knock it off with the mansplaining! You are delaying my support ticket that you’re supposed to submit to get the malware off my damn site!”

In this seemingly never-ending phone call where the support worker also attempted to explain Tuvan throat singing to me, I had a lot of extra time to think about how some people must take comfort in deciding that there are simply bad guys and then good guys there to stop them. As if everyone incarcerated has without-a-doubt committed crimes they were charged with? As if every sworn officer never has committed a crime or brutalized someone without a reason? As if everyone who takes a vow will uphold every piece of it forever? In what universe does that happen? Not ours.

So when someone pulls out the “bad guys” phrase, I’m on alert. On alert that I think things are going to be oversimplified in our conversation. I want to keep track of the complexities. Take, for instance, all the data gathered by the Prison Policy Initiative (and way more groups) that shed light on some of the many things that can increase someone’s chance of incarceration: drug addiction, poverty, not being white, psychiatric disability, and even getting a TBI when you’re a kid, to name a few. This is not the same as saying if you give a compelling reason or excuse, you should be considered free from accountability. The complexities should be considered and weighed carefully. Our justice system currently needs giant quotation marks around its name because our carceral industries and systems are not even being accountable.

If you wanna know more about what it’s like in a carceral setting, there are outstanding reports, such as this one by Disability Rights Oregon on conditions for our state’s incarcerated population with mental illness diagnoses. To round out this kind of research, it’s always important to get the stories and perspectives of people living in these settings. And this is where art can play a gigantic role.

David Slader, attorney and artist, has put together an arts exhibition called “Human Being” with art by B. Pat, Jerome Sloan, David Drenth, and Slader. Check out Oregon Prison Art for other exhibitions and other artists who aren’t in this current show.

Here’s B. Pat’s painting, “Human Being,” which inspired the name of the show. Art brut portrait of a person made with crushed candy and other everyday objects. The person's mouth is crooked and offset, eyes wide, pigment dripping off the face. The words "HUMAN Being" are written in various colors along the bottom.

July 5th: 6:00 – 8:00 pm with an auction to benefit the Oregon Justice Resource Center.

July 6th: 3:00 – 9:00 pm First Thursday reception

On display Thursdays – Sundays, July 7th – 28th, noon – 6:00 pm (regular gallery hours)
Gallery 114
1100 NW Glisan St.

Thank you, to Street Roots for alerting me to this show!