University of Southern Indiana

Filth and Foulness 2021 - Anna Ardelean

Political Waste: The Prison Industrial Trash Can

Artist Statement: This piece is designed to discuss how the American prison system is currently being used as a "catch-all" for many of our societal issues. Rather than passing policies to help eradicate or even alleviate these problems, including homelessness, drug addiction, illiteracy, abuse, trauma, mental illness, and unemployment, we simply arrest the victims of these problems. The current assumption is often that our issues will go away if we can't see them, so we throw them behind bars and pretend that they are no longer there. But beyond the simple lack of ambition to address the real issues, the prison industrial complex incentivizes incarceration. Corporations and politicians can make a ton of money off of throwing people in prison, rather than fixing the problem that put them in that situation in the first place.

This piece shows the prison as a trash can and the incarcerated individual is a piece of trash. I articulated this by illustrating an individual wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, but their face is relaced by a wadded-up piece of paper. This also indicates the erasure of the individual's identity and humanity. Each bar also represents a different issue that frequently advertently or inadvertently leads to incarceration. At the top of the painting, I included a quote by Dr. Angela Davis: "Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings."

This piece is not only designed to call out those in power, but it is also an introspective piece. Ultimately, our society views certain people as disposable. We tend to get so caught up in punishment for crimes that we fail to consider the real impact incarceration has on people. A felon label ruins people's lives. It affects where they can live, where they can work, whether they can vote, whether they will be able to have custody of their children, and more. For some instances, incarceration may be the most effective manner of protecting society. But for many "crimes," the best results would likely come from social programs, rehabilitation programs, mental health resources, community funding, and more. It takes compassion and care, but we can work to stop throwing people's lives away.

Acrylic and paper on canvas, April 2020

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