Prisoner Creates Epic Mural Out Of Bedsheets, Hair Gel, And Newspapers As a Meditation On Heaven, Hell, And Redemption

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Artist Jesse Krimes stands in front of his 39-panel mural Apokaluptein:16389067 (federal prison bed sheets, transferred New York Times images, color pencil) installed, here, at the Olivet Church Artist Studios, Philadelphia. January, 2014.

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In 2009, Jesse Krimes (yes that is his real name) was sentenced to 70 months in a federal penitentiary for cocaine possession and intent to distribute. The judge sentenced Jesse to a minimum security prison in New Jersey, close to support network of friends and family, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) opted to send him to a medium security facility in Butner, North Carolina.

His way of coping with the life-changing sentence went a bit more differently than you would expect. He got by with a little help from federal prison bed sheets, hair gel, The New York Times, and some color pencils. Although money was limited in prison, he never struggled to gather enough money to purchase these objects. You might be thinking these are random, but, in fact, they are what made prison life a somewhat more passable experience.

While experimenting with these four materials, Krimes discovered that he could transfer the newspaper images onto the prison bedsheets. At first he used water to do this, but that did not work. Hair gel, on the other hand, had the requisite viscosity to do the job. He was not aware that three years after, he would end up with a 39-panel mural. Each transfer took 30-minutes. Thousands make up the mural. Krimes only worked on one bed-sheet at a time, each of them matching the size of the tabletop he worked on. The laborious routine kept Krimes sane, focused and disciplined.

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