These wall coverings include 50 States, Penitentiary Wallpapers: screen printed historic papers altered with prison imagery, and digitally printed security envelope papers. Both projects adddress issues about privacy, surveillance and material comfort.
This series of quilts using aerial views of prisons questions our culture of surveillance and incarceration. A view of Guantanamo Prison on WikiLeaks was the genesis for this project; its quaint cottage-like form when seen from above belies the prison’s wrenching history. Traditional quilt patterns have much in common with shapes found in prison design; they are typically symmetrical with blocks of repeating geometric shapes that radiate outward from a central axis. Many evoke Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, which was conceived as a central space from which a watcher could observe prisoners without being seen, to keep the incarcerated under a constant state of perceived surveillance and instill a sense of paranoia and behavior regulation. Quilts immediately bring to mind ideas of home, comfort, and security, of communities and their histories, of labor and women’s work. They indicate a protected space. As heirlooms they carry narratives that are otherwise forgotten. Bringing these two seemingly polarized forms together allows me highlight the costs born by societies deeply invested in incarceration.