Spine-Chilling Paintings Of Suffering by Dr. Kevorkian, Practitioner Of Assisted Suicide

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The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, known for his life’s work of advocating assisted suicide and for helping to end over 130 lives with his ominous-sounding Thanatron, or “machine of death,” was also an oil painter. The doctor, who spend 8 years in prison, created a little-known body of work tinged with the horror of pain; illustrating his controversial ideas on compassion, the paintings take aim at his religious critics and appeal to a nuanced moral ideal where death is seen simultaneously as a terror and an escape.

Kevorkian’s Thanatron takes its name from the ancient Greek personification of death; in his paintings, he also uses mythological themes. In “Fever,” he illustrates a hell composed of the ill and suffering; like Dante’s Virgil, he leads his painted patient through the depths of agony and fear with wide, sweeping brushstrokes. The Christian Brotherhood is reimagined as a monster characterized by multiple grotesque, sharp-toothed heads vaguely reminiscent of Inferno’s Satan.

Seemingly drawing inspiration from symbolist painters like Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch, the artist, often referred to as “Dr. Death,” distorts the form of his subjects so that they might express psychological despair and heightened anxiety. In one image, titled “Coma,” a man, draped in a bed sheet, is inhaled by ghostly skull, his body absurdly foreshortened and his lined feet disproportionately swelled to express profound weariness. As the monstrous spirit of “coma” sucks him in, his tiny, darkened eyes beg for release. In “Paralysis,” the body becomes a prison, the brain removed and bound in chains.

When exhibited alongside the doctor’s paintings illustrating his love of music (Johann Sebastian Bach, a treble and bass clef), as they are at Gallerie Sparta, the more frightful images take on a strange operatic quality, evoking eery tonal climaxes with expressionistic bursts of color. 11 of the doctor’s paintings will be on view through April 30. (via Huff Post)

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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Prison Art: The Story Of An Incredibly Detailed Monkey Bar Diorama Made From Scraps And Gifted To Henry Ford

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Henry Ford’s Digital Collections Initiatives Manager Ellice Engdahl recently wrote about one of his favorite artifacts of the 18,000 published online: The Monkey Bar diorama. This diorama was created by a man known as Patrick J. Culhane (various spellings) in 1914-15 during his time at the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown where he’d been sent after a conviction of “larceny from a conveyance.” Culhane carved and assembled this incredibly detailed piece of prison art by hand from a variety of materials, including peach pits, and scraps of wood, fabric, metal, cellulose, and plastic, all fitting into a base measuring only 16″ x 20″.

Engdahl notes that Monkey Bars were created by other prisoners in the early 20th century, and that “Culhane intended the diorama to depict many of the worldly pitfalls that had put him and his fellow inmates on a path to prison. The Bar is chock full of monkeys engaged in all kinds of rambunctious activities—drinking alcohol, gluttonous eating, smoking (cigarettes, cigars, and opium), gambling and gaming in many forms (craps, roulette, checkers, shell game, and cards), playing music, monitoring the stock market via a ticker, and even paying off a policemonkey. Clearly some of the monkeys are ready to check into (or out of) the associated hotel, as they have their suitcases with them and keys and mail are visible behind the desk.”

After Culhane finished his piece, he arranged to have it sent to Henry Ford, with a hand-written note, “Presented to Mr. Henry Ford / As a token of appreciation and esteem for his many benevolent and magnanimous acts toward, and keen interest in, prisoners / By A Prisoner.”

Engdahl surmises that Ford became interested in Culhane, and may have a hand in his release from prison, as Culhane was hired to work at the Ford Motor Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1916 and Ford’s secretary corresponded with Culhane regularly.

All photos courtesy of The Henry Ford. (via Slate)