New Towson exhibit spotlights work of incarcerated artists

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Harold Searcy’s casting Two Faces of Me represents “The masks that we all wear simply because we are human.”

York & Penn Art Gallery at Triple Crown Studio has partnered with Justice Arts Coalition on a compelling new art show called “Sotto Voce.” An opening reception June 17 featured refreshments, artist interviews, and blues by Mark “Muleman” Massey.

Works by Chad Merrill (black and white, left) and Mike Tran (on cardboard lunchboxes, right) are part of an exhibit by incarcerated artists.

The exhibit, on display through Aug. 7, includes more than 100 works by artists currently and formerly incarcerated across the U.S. The show highlights creative expression as a human need, a human right, and a reminder of our shared humanity. The artwork and accompanying messages are very impactful. Here are a few excerpts from some of the artist statements:


Vince Vader: “All my life I’ve had nothing but what I could create on paper. And these last 10 years, I’ve been lied to by friends, family, saying they’ll help me. I realized they don’t understand how it feels to live with a dream. … With my art, I try to find new ways of using wax and oil pastels, to make it look like paint.” His creations, including Vader Wonderland and Sicky Mouse, re-imagine familiar characters.

Mike Tran: “I fell back onto my mechanical background, constructing skeletal frames out of paper and cardboard lunchboxes, I then applied soap over the frames creating ‘muscle and skin.’ I would then paint over the dried soap using hand-me-down acrylic paints.” His detailed pieces include Mona Lunch Box and Tupac Shakur.

Bold, bright paintings by David Potwin are part of an incarcerated artists exhibit at Triple Crown’s York & Penn Gallery.

Greg Bolden: “Now, after spending a little over 14 years in prison and still presently incarcerated, Greg has had enough time to assess his situation … to find purpose in this new life … while evolving into Greg Bolden the Artist.” His mixed media piece Admit One illustrates how he sees his place in the world.

Robert Odom: “Now, lynchings involve firepower and social media. The two portraits here, ‘Ahmaud Arbery’ and ‘Emmett Till,’ encompass one or both of those factors. Modern-day lynchings are more visible now because of social media. But they’re also seemingly more frequent.”

Conor Broderick: “Sometimes there would be an idea that I would try to get out of my head but that never worked very well because I did not know what I was doing. Usually I would attempt something, fail by my own standards, then move on to something like cards, reading, or going outside. Then … in solitary confinement … I had to develop a hobby that would keep me sane.”

Vince Vader’s creations reimagine and reinvent some familiar cartoon characters.

David Potwin: “For me, painting is a synthesis that considers the myriad aspects of human awareness expressed in visual form. It melds together philosophy, physics, sociology, emotion, mysticism, and eroticism with craftsmanship. I like to tweak the colors to tease the eye with a sense of light and expressed energy. I consider my work ‘conceptual realism’.” His intriguing acrylic paintings include “Attitude Adjustment” and “Prison Bus.”

These system-impacted artists have created works that tell a story and will surely get you thinking. The show is free and open to the public at 501-A York Rd. See and for more details.

Robert Odom sparks social commentary with his graphite portraits Ahmaud Arbery and Emmett Till.