WMU Home Frostic School of Art College of Fine Arts

On the Inside Out

September 20 – October 28, 2018

Monroe-Brown Gallery

Curated by Indra K. Lacis, PhD / Director of Exhibitions

Thursday, September 20, 2018, 5:00 – 7:00pm
Opening reception & preview for artists, Friends of the Richmond Center, and Frostic School of Art students

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the rate of incarceration in the United States today is five times higher than that of most countries in the world, with nearly 693 incarcerated persons for every 100,000 residents.  Spread across state and federal prisons, local jails, juvenile correctional facilities, military prisons, civil commitment centers, and immigration detention facilities, the United States imprisons a staggering 2.3 million people.

In recent years, artist-activists and art institutions alike have sought to frame the meta-narratives and deeply seeded socio-political issues that underlie mass incarceration.  Titled On the Inside Out, this small group exhibition departs from such approaches to examine in more depth the nuanced inside/out boundary so deeply pertinent to prison life, as well as the circumstances and consequences surrounding mass incarceration in the United States today. 

Focusing on specific, personal accounts and micro-histories that elucidate the crisis of mass incarceration from distinct and singular perspectives, On the Inside Out highlights such themes as isolation, invisibility, psychological barriers, the absent or unseen body, and the actual prison wall itself. Confirmed artists include Maria GasparCheryl PopeTyanna J. BuieAshely Hunt, Sherrill Roland, Hank Willis Thomas, and Photo Requests from Solitary.

As a balance to the exhibition’s more personalized narratives or projects, On the Inside Out will also feature an on-site learning lab that seeks to educate about the overarching facts that govern the crisis of mass incarceration. This learning lab, coupled with wide ranging artworks (video, photography, and performance, among other media) will situate individual voices as powerful sources with the capacity to shed light on the broad and often unacknowledged ways that mass incarceration affects cities, communities, neighborhoods, and the social fabric of families.


TYANNA BUIE: A native of Chicago, IL, and Milwaukee, WI, Tyanna Buie earned her BA from Western Illinois University, and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Buie has attended various Artist-in-Residency programs including the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, LA; the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY; and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. She also maintains close community connections by hosting printmaking workshops and demonstrations including “Healthy Neighborhood Initiatives” and public art projects in Milwaukee, and Madison, WI.

Buie’s extensive exhibition record in juried, group, and solo shows includes such venues as The Contemporary Invitational Print and Drawing exhibition at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Institute of Contemporary Art MECA, Portland, ME; Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL; The Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University; Racine Art Museum, WI; The Milwaukee Art Museum, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Lawrence University, Appleton, WI; the Museum of Wisconsin Art; and The Red Bull House of Art, N’NAMDI Center for Contemporary Art and Detroit Artist Market in Detroit, MI. Buie has also served as a visiting artist lecturer in Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Arizona.  In 2012, Buie received an emerging artist Mary L. Nohl Fellowship and is the recipient of the 2015 Love of Humanity Award from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the prestigious 2015 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant. Her work is part of the permanent collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, WI.  Buie currently lives and works in Detroit, MI where she is Assistant Professor and Section Chair of Printmaking at the College for Creative Studies.  


MARIA GASPAR is an interdisciplinary artist negotiating the politics of location through installation, sculpture, sound, and performance. Gaspar’s work addresses issues of spatial justice in order to amplify, mobilize, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Her work spans formats and durations, including sound performances at a military site in New Haven ("Sounds for Liberation"); long-term public art interventions at the largest jail in the country (96 Acres Project, Chicago); appropriations of museum archives ("Brown Brilliance Darkness Matter"); and audio-video works, documenting a jail located in her childhood neighborhood ("On the Border of What is Formless and Monstrous"). 

Gaspar has exhibited at venues including the MCA, Chicago, IL; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY; Artspace, New Haven, CT; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; amongst many others. Gaspar is the recipient of an Art Matters Grant, a Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, a Creative Capital Award, a Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, and a Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award in Art and Activism from the National Museum of Mexican Art. She was recently awarded the Chamberlain Award for Social Practice at the Headlands Center for the Arts and completed a residency at Project Row Houses in 2015. Gaspar was named Chicagoan of the Year in the Arts in 2014 by art critic and historian, Lori Waxman. She is an Assistant Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.


ASHLEY HUNT is an artist and activist who uses video, photography, mapping and writing to engage social movements, modes of learning, and public discourse. Among his interests are structures that allow people to accumulate power and those which keep others from getting power, while learning from the ways that people come to know, respond to and conceive of themselves within these structures. Rather than seeing art and activism as two exclusive spheres of practice, he approaches them as complimentary, drawing upon the ideas of social movements and cultural theory alike — the theories and practices of each informing the other and pushing their limitations.  This has included investigations into the prison, the dismantling of welfare state institutions, war and disaster capitalism, documentary representations and engagement with political activism and community organizing. His recent performance, 'Notes on the Emptying of a City', explores the first-person politics of being in New Orleans with a camera in the months following Hurricane Katrina, when he engaged with community activists to research the city’s refusal to evacuate the Orleans Parish Prison.

Other projects include the ongoing 'Corrections Documentary Project' which centers around the contemporary growth of prisons and their centrality to today’s economic restructuring and the politics of race; '9 Scripts from a Nation at War', a collaboration with Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, Katya Sander and David Thorne; and an ongoing collaboration wtih Taisha Paggett, 'On Movement, Thought and Politics'.  Hunt's most recent project, titled 'Communograph', was conceived as a collaborative, multi-platform public project, built for the sharing of community-based research and authorship in Houston's Third Ward, and in dialogue with Project Row Houses.

Hunt’s work has been screened and exhibited at the P.S.1/MoMA, the New Museum, Project Row Houses, Documenta 12, the Gallery at REDCAT, Nottingham Contemporary, the 3rd Bucharest Biennial, the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, as well as numerous grassroots and community based venues throughout the U.S. His writings and publication include, 'Itch Journal' (’10, ’08), 'Printed Project 12' (’09), the 'Journal of Aesthetics and Protest' (’08, ’07 & ’05), 'On Knowledge Production: A Critical Reader' (BAK ’08), Art Journal (’07), 'Chto Delat' (’07), 'Rethinking Marxism' (’06), Artwurl.org (’03–’05), and 'Sandbox Magazine' (’02).


CHERYL POPE is an interdisciplinary visual artist that questions and responds to issues of identity as it relates to the individual and the community, specifically in regards to race, gender, class, history, power and place. Her practice emerges from the act and politics of listening.

Pope received her BFA and MD from the School of the Art Institute Chicago, where she is now an Adjunct Professor. She is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago and Galleria Bianconi in Milan.  Pope studied under the artist Nick Cave for twelve years, was a teaching artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art for seven years, and worked in multiple community based organizations throughout Chicago. Upcoming exhibitions and projects in 2018 include Declaration, the inaugural exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Richmond, VA; Flux Projects, Atlanta, GA; and Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Joan Flasche Artist’s Book Collection, Chicago; and Seattle Art Museum, WA.  Pope is from Chicago and based in New York. 


SHERRILL ROLAND Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Sherrill Roland lives and works in Raleigh, NC.  He earned his MFA and BFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensborough, and participated in the 2008 Exchange Program at Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, UK.  Roland creates art the challenges ideas around controversial social and political constructs, and many of his projects and performances generate a safe space to process, question, and share.

His performances and installations have been featured at such venues Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC; Princeton University, NJ; Brooklyn Public Library, NY; University of Illinois Chicago; Appalachian State University, Boone, NC; Guilford College, NC; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibition, CA; and Elsewhere Museum, NC. Forthcoming in 2018, Sherrill Roland’s work will be featured in group exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; the New Gallery of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC; and ARTspace, Raleigh, NC.


HANK WILLIS THOMAS (b. 1976, Plainfield, NJ; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands. Solo exhibitions of his work have been featured at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, and the African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA, among others.

Major group exhibitions of his work include the 2017 inaugural show at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; among others. Thomas’ work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York, NY (1998) and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2004). He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, MD and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, Portland, ME in 2017. Thomas’ first comprehensive survey Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… will open in the fall of 2019 at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, OR.


PHOTO REQUESTS FROM SOLITARY (PRFS) is an ongoing project that invites men and women held in long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons to request a photograph of anything at all, real or imagined, and then finds an artist to make the image. The astonishing range of requests received to date includes “the freestanding columns at the Great Temple of Amun, Karnak,” “A blue rose, cut with all its leaves remaining, held in a crystal/clear vase or a hand and if possible, the Perseids meteor shower as a background,” “a gray and white ‘Warmblood’ horse rearing in weather cold enough to see its breath,” and “Myself with a blue sky.” Taken together, these requests provide an archive of the hopes, memories, and interests of people who live in extreme isolation, surrounded by gray walls.

PRFS offers a new way for people to think about solitary confinement and the people who endure it. Viewers are able to see not what incarcerated people see, but what they envision—the vivid and varied images that all minds produce, independently of senses and circumstances. Capturing these images as photographs, which can then be sent back to the people who conceived them, completes an artistic collaboration that acknowledges the shared creativity and humanity of individuals on both sides of the prison walls.

The Photo Requests from Solitary project was initiated in 2009 by Tamms Year Ten, a grassroots coalition of artists, advocates, family members and men formerly incarcerated in Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois, which was shuttered in 2013 after years of opposition. In 2013, the project became a collaboration between artist and advocate Laurie Jo Reynolds (Tamms Year Ten), artist and educator Jeanine Oleson (Parsons The New School for Design), and journalist Jean Casella (Solitary Watch), hosted by Solitary Watch. The project that year expanded to California and New York, where it continues to fill requests and using the project to support local campaigns to limit the use of solitary confinement.


Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo College
Western Michigan University Prison Education Program
Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University Center for the Humanities
Black History 101 Mobile Museum

This exhibition is supported with funding from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.