Federal Art Program: Part 3
Three hundred dollars does not buy much from Blick. That is our quarterly spending limit for painting. It includes the 30% mark-up and the shipping charges and counts against our monthly commissary limit . this means that you may have to choose between coffee and art supplies. oh well, just another hoop to jump through. It used to be separate from monthly commissary. That changed. But the $300.00 quarterly hobby craft limit hasn't changed in more than 25 years. Prices have. I know, I know, I should have thought of that before i came to prison.
Monthly supply orders occur at the whims of the 'boss', and are likely to skip a month or two. This puts the orders out of sync with our quarterly limits. When this happens we find
sync with our quarterly limits. When this happens we find ourselves limited to $300.00 per a 6 month period. Orders will often be rejected for whimsical reasons and cannot be re-submitted until the next month. This presents lively strategic challenges. Ah, but necessity is the mother of invention. Canvas drop cloths, though full of imperfections can be gessoed in a pinch, and cost only a few mackerels from a maintenance worker. Prisoners are nothing, if not resourceful.
A prisoner once came to the art room to show off a 'keyboard' that he had made. It had cardboard keys with rubber bands that returned them after they were depressed. Each key was connected by a tube and valve to a plastic razor handle that
s connected by a tube and valve to a plastic razor handle that had a slot cut into it, like a flute. He had created a mouthpiece connected by plastic tubing so that he could blow into the thing and when a key was played. It corresponded to a note. It was made of garbage, AND THE THING WAS IN TUNE!!!!.
There are some silver linings in this black cloud. I do not have the same financial pressures as those on the outside. I can paint whatever madness that i wish. The stamp and mackerel economy differs from the outside in both demands and scale. Working in prison doesn't help much with a base pay of $5.25 per month. Hey, but it's tax exempt! Well, they do take back 30%.
Something goes here.
O.K. I lied. I cannot paint whatever I want. FMC Ft. Worth is not known for its open-mindedness. In fact, we are forbidden to paint images of breasts, butt cracks, or god forbid, genitals, no matter how abstract. Thus, our reference books are lacking in anatomy, Greek sculpture or even Picasso nudes. This is the case even though national policy allows nudity exceptions for art and medical books.In any case, the education department supplied its prison labor force with sharpie markers to redact all naughty bits from the library art books. The punks did an ughty bits from the library art books. The punks did an obsessively thorough job. perhaps they were being paid $12.50 per month.
Allow me to digress. There is a creepy old guy here that everyone calls Fireside Fred, because of his history of camping trips with youngsters. Fred also likes to draw dicks on pictures of little boys that he finds in the J.C. Pennys' summer catalog. One of our transgender guards was horrified to find a stack of these in his locker, and confiscated them. She was however, required to return them, because no matter how odious, they were within Fred's first ammendment rights.
Still, the staff attempts to visually neuter the artists by forbidding images, either suggested or obvious to be painted, that can regularly been seen on the television. No one can accuse the bureau of consistency.
Paintings are censored to individual 'bosses' sensitivities, so it is a constant struggle to subvert the kindergarten standards. i will paint away the clothing from a figure upon completion of the painting and then hide it until it dries. The challenge then is to
painting and then hide it until it dries. The challenge then is to mail it out undetected. Sometimes I distort, abstract, or disguise the 'adult' parts to a point where the 'boss' doesn't know what he's looking at. I have been temporarily suspended from the program for 2 weeks for an 'illegal' painting of mannikin legs that had a suggestion of a fanny.
Thankfully they have come to accept this visual artifact of mine.
I painted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the tree
I painted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the tree of knowlege and the devil snake, of course sans clothing. 'Boss' says,"No way Jose." So Wallah! The solution is obvious. Do you think it strange that our cultural/religious creation myth is obscene?