Years ago, I received a fan letter from an inmate imprisoned in London, Ohio. Jack Kinney simply wanted to express his appreciation for work he’d seen on a book given him from outside, and to ask for a few art pointers.
Jack confessed that he was involved in a violent crime when he was 19. He didn’t say what, but he did express his remorse meaningfully. He’s 41 now, but looks sixty. “All these years show up in my face,” he says.
I’m always happy to share what I know, but through the mail with an inmate is tricky. Their email is limited or nonexistent, obviously, and every letter they receive is opened and pre-read. They’re not allowed prints larger than 8.5 x 11 (which I learned only after I tried to send him something larger). I did send him a how-to tutorial art book one Christmas. After that he started to send me his drawings and paintings, very poorly copied on the prison’s xerox machine. Are they professional? Hopw could they be? But they’re not terrible either. It makes one wonder what might have been had he stayed home one night.
I never quite know how to react. When I was 19, I got into trouble, and might have ended up behind prison bars but for the times and the compassion of strangers. I sympathize with these persons whose lives have been put completely on hold—deserved or not— with only a keyhole view of the outside world passing them by.
Jack shared a number of his images, but this is the one he’s most proud of. He says, “Made it up myself. Did not copy anyone. It’s one of a kind.” He’s not selling it, because the only means he has of selling his works is to trust someone on the outside to manage it for him. He’s only had his artwork stolen.
What kind of miserable cuss would do something like that? It makes me sad, and I feel for his loneliness. The one thing inmates most want is contact. So I’m going to share Jack’s snail-mail address here, in hopes that some of my artist and non-artist friends will type or write up a quick letter and put a few moments’ joy into a stranger’s day, just because we’re all human, and there but for the grace of God and all that… Send him your own tutorials, prints of your work, just words of greeting. Tell him I sent you.
Next, I’m going to set up a Facebook page where folks might post letters of others who aspire to some beauty behind bars, and could use encouragement and engagement.
Thanks for reading and considering…
UPDATE: Here is the Facebook Page. Please have a look and consider what you might do. Thanks!
Posted by Todd in Blog Home