We received a very special delivery the other day. Since my brother is being transferred to another prison, he was required to send home most of his possessions. This means his artwork, supplies and art books. This is bitter sweet, because it means his masterpieces, which were a virtual window to the outside world, are now here with us. Sweet for us to be able to have in our possession. Bitter that he doesn't have them anymore.
When we opened the boxes and looked through his hundreds of doodles, sketches and practice pieces, I felt as if he was home. I didn't feel so far away. There was something on the bottom of the box, a rolled up piece of canvas. I pulled the canvas scroll out, seeing my brother's name and compulsory inmate number written on it. It tied by a string. I untied and unrolled it, and when I saw what it contained, my heart skipped a beat and I gasped. It was his paint brush holder, with all his brushes.
Maybe it's because the only things previously allowed to make it out of his cell are paintings and letters, or maybe it's because I knew what these brushes have created in his hand. But, to behold his brushes made tears well up.
It was as if I was seeing his very hands. These brushes have created his expressions and feelings for four years now. These brushes have been the key to his very survival and his literal life line. They have created his virtual escape of the six-by-nine foot concrete box he lives in with another person. They've created his portal to exotic places and back home to people he loves.
As most prisoners do, they learn to make something from nothing. My brother often put in orders for art supplies, paid for them, and never received them. His brushes were getting worn down. His solution: grow his hair out to harvest and make "new" brushes with. (He also convinced an inmate who had a pet gopher that died, to let him get some hairs from him for his brush before the burial. ) These are the brushes I beheld.
The still life that he did is something I cannot quit staring at. I've never really been into still life art before, though I do appreciate it. But, this is captivating me.
What do you see?
PS. Sorry for the poor quality photo I took of his painting.