REVIEW: 26th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

This diverse exhibition is definitely worth checking out.

Themed art exhibition makes you form prior expectations before you visit the place. The exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners made me expect a heavy exhibition with a lot of social messages, life in prison, and emotions. This turned out to be a prejudice: the exhibition was full of diverse artworks using various mediums and exploring different themes and topics. This proved my prejudice to put their current location over who they were as an artist. As if the exhibition already expected people like me to have this prejudice, the exhibition emphasized and invited the viewer to see the people behind the artwork. The visitor could write on the guest book which will go straight to the artist. Also, a computer was placed so that the visitor could search the artist’s art statement. Every artwork is marked with a price that the artist had decided on and the visitor could purchase artwork on the spot.

Here are a few of the artwork that showed well the themes shared by some artworks. I chose them not because they were better than the others but because these are the ones that I spent more time viewing.

‘Living the Dream’, John Riley
‘Popsicle Stick Chess 2.0’, Ryan G
Left: ‘Identity’, Johnetta Sullivan                  Right: ”An Old Memory (from before worst decisions & mistake)”, L. Wheeler







Quite a few artworks showed the relationship between real or imagined spaces and the artist: it could be their dream houses like Joh Riley’s ‘Living the Dream’, or a scene from their memory. Some directly addressed their current state as being imprisoned: imagining freedom or reunion with their family. There were also portraits that seemed to be of the person that the artist know. Also, I was amazed to find out that wooden popsicle sticks could create amazing artwork-some of artwork had created highly detailed sculptures with popsicles sticks, like ‘Popsicle Stick Chess 2.0’ by Ryan G.

Another factor why I was aware of the artist behind the artwork more in this exhibition compared to other ones is because of the knowledge that the majority of the artists were not trained in art. This made me focus more on why the artist would have chosen this medium and topic as the focus of their art. If the artist is a professional artist, I think they will choose something that is closer to their professional identity as the topic of the art. However, if the artist is a non-occupational artist who produces limited drawings, then you start to link the meaning of that specific piece with the life of the artist, drawing from a broader area than just personal identity.

The exhibition continues until April 5th. If you can’t visit the Duderstadt center before that date, you can see the artwork online here.