Friday, July 29, 2016


A row of cells at Eastern State Penitentiary

While in Pennsylvania we made a stop at Eastern State Penitentiary.  The prison is open to the public and has been left to deteriorate on its own.  There have been structural repairs made and they are working on making the medical wing safe for visitors to see.

My interest in deteriorating buildings along with art installations throughout made this a must see.

Door rollers on top of a cell door

Almost all of the door rollers were of differing design

Wall and paint deterioration

Interior of a cell

The movie "12 Monkeys" with Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis was filmed there.

Here are a few of the art installations that peaked my interest:

"Other Absences" by Cindy Stockton Moore.  

This was the most moving piece for me.  The artist created portraits of victims which were hung from the ceiling and, to me, seemed as if they had made their way to heaven.  She did research on these victims leading to:

A booklet with victim portraits, names, how they died and the consequences their murderer faced. There are very few installations dealing with the victims and reading about their deaths was an experience I will never forget.

"Apokaluptein 16389067:II"  by Jesse Krimes.  

Krimes was incarcerated in a federal prison and during his time created various works on prison bed sheets.  He sent each section home from prison and has reassembled and altered sections to fit in a cell space at Eastern State.  The work is surreal with pages from the New York Times mixed with artwork of floating or dancing women across the "collage" of work.  I found myself wondering why he chose the subjects he did and what they meant to him.

"No Trace Without Resistance" by Ruth Scott Blackson

Blackson's work entailed placing gold leaf on paint chips and adhering them to the prison walls. For me this showed the beauty of deterioration.  If one looks closely there is more to a deteriorating building than rubble and dust.  An old building always leads me to wondering what it originally looked like, what happened there and who inhabited the space. 

A visit to the prison is well worth the trip.  There are changing art installations throughout the year offering various perspectives on the prison's history and allowing one to question their own perspectives on prisons and on art.  To read more go to Eastern State Penitentiary website

As a treat, here's Al Capone's cell while he was there:

A bit more luxurious than other cells.

Art exercise:  

Take note of deteriorating buildings in your area and think about how you could use your thoughts or research on them to create art.

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