Postcards from Death Row

In September 2012, in collaboration with Wildland Urban Interface and REACH Coalition, I ran a workshop on postcard art for inmates on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, Tennessee. Each inmate was given a blank postcard to "design," which meant that he described in detail the image he wanted on the front, and then provided directions so that an artist on the "outside" could create the postcard for the inmate. The goal of this workshop was simply to give these men an opportunity to express themselves in a way that they hadn’t before. Yet the experience of working with them proved to be even more fruitful than expected, and questions arose about what it means to receive a postcard – an object that usually showcases the beauty of a location – from a prison, and what it means for an immobile person to send a postcard to others. The postcard, normally perceived as a pleasant if not bland and obsolete format, in this context suddenly became more charged and even somewhat perverse.