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A piece by inmate Marcus Duenas titled “Locals Being Baptized” is on display in the Wallens Ridge Offender Art Show. Duenas is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
A gallery featuring works of art by offenders serving time at one of Virginia's supermax prisons is set to have an official opening today .
The Wallens Ridge Offender Art Show at Virginia Western Community College includes 52 pieces from about 26 inmates at the Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap, said Jon Perry, an adjunct professor of administration of justice who organized the show with the school's Criminal Justice Club.
Perry said he was impressed when he recently visited a gallery at the college put on by the biology department.
"I said, 'Shoot, well there's art in criminal justice,' " he said.
He contacted Red Onion State Prison as well, but only heard back from the warden at Wallens Ridge.
All 52 pieces were done using ink on paper. The offenders were allowed a 5-inch flexible pen to prevent them from using it as a weapon. Some used M&Ms or Kool-Aid for color.
"It tells us that they're human beings," Perry said of the inmates' work. "They're paying their debt to society, but yet they're still human beings. ... They have likes, interests, etc."
The works range from baptismal scenes and depictions of Native Americans to cartoons. One piece, "Imprisoned," depicts a person behind bars, the theme of which Perry described as "the prison inside of us all."
The gallery's opening is set for 5 to 7 p.m. in the Virginia Western Humanities Building, room H212. The show runs until Oct. 9.
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