I’ve been in prison for nearly 35 of my 62 years on earth. Though I certainly regretted my role in the crime that took an innocent life, remorse didn’t fully begin to develop until I lost two of my own family members to gun violence in 2008.
Another significant factor in my overall rehabilitation came in 2015 when I was invited to paint murals at Avenal State Prison. I felt like I was doing what I was born to do. Painting became so therapeutic for me that I was moved to co-found a self-sustaining art group a year later in order to offer other inmates the opportunity to realize the same benefits I derived through this creative outlet.
Aspiring to produce more expressive works, my submissions to Humans of San Quentin depart somewhat from the photorealism I generally aim for. The abstract paintings “Peccani” and “Nil Desperandum” are expressions of contrition and hope, respectively. Nearly a decade ago I read an article about an abstractionist from the 1980s who found inspiration for his masterpieces by squeezing his eyes shut and observing the images captured there. Years later as I contemplated the impact of my crime while staring into middle space across the dayroom, I closed my eyes tightly against the tears that threatened there. The bright overhead lights and sunlight spilling in from the high windows burned their impressions into the dark red field of my eyelids. Influenced by this unorthodox technique, as well as “Light Red Over Dark Red” by Mark Rotuko, “Peccari” is both an abstraction of prison and an acknowledgment of my crime.
“Nil Desperandum” is not as solemn in its imagery or color scheme, but it lacks no depth in mood. Its inspiration came from a photograph by a well known Bay Area photographer, Amy Ho. About six years ago while flipping through pages of a photography magazine, I came across an ad for an art exhibit in San Francisco. A picture of “Wall Space II” was featured in the ad, and though it was no more than an inch in size, I was instantly captivated by the warm-toned image. It possessed for me both mystery and promise. Although my interpretation of Amy’s stunning photograph is rendered in cooler colors for a more ethereal effect, I hope it does not deviate too far from the emotions evoked in the original.