Since the year 2000, artist Julie Green has immortalized the final meal requests of US death row inmates. It’s an on-going project aptly-titled The Last Supper, and she paints cobalt-blue pictures of the meals onto second-hand porcelain plates.
Green’s initial inspiration for the series came when she was working at the University of Oklahoma and noticed this menu printed in her morning paper: “three fried chicken thighs, 10 or 15 shrimp, tater tots with ketchup, two slices of pecan pie, strawberry ice cream, honey and biscuits, and a Coke.” It was included in the death notice of an inmate’s execution. This tradition of a final meal startled her, and she clipped the menu, as well as others that she saw.
Not long after seeing that clipping did she start The Last Supper. Along with painting the plates, she also details what the inmate ordered. Green writes:
In states with options, most selections are modest. This is not surprising, as many are limited to what is in the prison kitchen. Others provide meals from local venues. California allows restaurant take-out, up to fifty-dollars. Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, and Long John Silver’s are frequently selected in Oklahoma, where their fifteen-dollar allowance is down from twenty in the late 1990’s. Requests provide clues on region, race, and economic background. A family history becomes apparent when Indiana Department of Corrections adds “he told us he never had a birthday cake so we ordered a birthday cake for him.”
Over time, she’s completed 600 plates – 50 a year. Green spends six months of every year working on this project, and she plans to continue it until capital punishment is abolished.
The Last Supper will be on display this spring at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio in an exhibition titled The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates. (Via PBS Art Beat)