Watkins College of Art, Design & Film presents “My Life Is Outside”: Everyday Photographs from Prison at its downtown gallery WAG during the July 5 edition of the First Saturday Art Crawl. Curated by Sharon Stewart, the show features a collection of photographs belonging to Tennessee prisoners, offering a more fully dimensional look at the personal histories, current realities and surrounding communities of these lives than may normally be seen.
The title of the show borrows from a reflection shared by Riverbend Maximum Security Institution prisoner Harold Wayne Nichols. Writing on the significance of his photographs when considering his life inside versus outside of prison, he says, “My life is outside.”
Sharon Stewart is a senior in the Photography BFA program at Watkins; much of her current work explores the unique personal and cultural possibilities of vernacular photography. She plans to use photography as a therapeutic tool in her future career as an art therapist.
“During the past year, Sharon has been part of a group of students and faculty that have participated in artistic dialogues and art exhibitions with prisoners on death row here in Tennessee,” said Tom Williams, Watkins’ assistant professor of art history. ‘My Life Is Outside’: Everyday Photographs from Prison is her original curatorial effort to expand that conversation. It combines her interest in the uses of photography in ordinary life and the life experience of people who are often defined by the institutions that imprison them.
Sharon’s exhibition offers a glimpse of their communities and their families in order to show that life for them endures outside the walls of prison.” In addition to photographs, the exhibition includes writings by the prisoners about their images. Docents will be available at the gallery opening to share accounts of stories, as told to them by the prisoners, about select displayed photographs.
“My Life Is Outside” involves multiple participants from REACH, an organization for reciprocal education led by insiders on Tennessee’s death row (Unit 2 at Riverbend). For more information on their initiatives visit reachcoalition.wordpress.com.
WAG–an acronym for Watkins Arcade Gallery–is located in suite 77 upstairs in the historic Arcade and is open the first Saturday evening of the month during each Art Crawl (from 6-9 p.m.), and by appointment. WAG joins approximately 20 participating Art Crawl galleries along Fifth Avenue of the Arts and upstairs in the Historic Arcade. Admission is free, and the Nashville Downtown Partnership provides two free shuttles traveling among the venues. For more information on the First Saturday Art Crawl, visit nashvilledowntown.com/play/first-saturday-art-crawl.
Read about the September 2013 COOP gallery show with collaborations between students and Riverbend’s Unit 2 here at the art and culture forum Hyperallergic.com.