Portrait of Marilyn Monroe

A Glimpse Inside: Art Produced in Iowa Prisons

The artworks included in "A Glimpse Inside" were produced inside the Iowa Prison system, at various locations. Artists make use of mostly improvised materials to produce art that may be purely for self-expression, or possibly for personal income, such as greeting cards and commissioned portraits. All income earned in prison, whether privately or from official wages, is meager. Art is sometimes produced for cash and at other times for "prison money."

The collector, Doren L. Walker, was encouraged by retired attorney Vicki Rush to share his own art and art he has collected from incarcerated persons over the last fifteen years. His hope is that each artist will be seen as a person, making it easier for them to rejoin Iowa communities and find good jobs and suitable housing. Mr. Walker has been aided by support from Inside Out Reentry Community and Kathrina Litchfield, of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. Jordan Sellergren, Art Director at Little Village, set up the exhibition at the magazine's headquarters in Iowa City. This has been a truly communal effort!

Inside Out Reentry Community website

Portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Graphite on paper

From Doren L. Walker, collector:"Ray LaBelle has been perfecting his skill for the last five years behind bars, and is particularly strong in portraits. He often draws Marilyn Monroe, as he has done here, as this is a visual subject which commands a higher price in prison. He also produces commissioned portraits of loved ones, pets, or other subjects, based on a photograph supplied to the artist.  Mr. LaBelle is a well-known artist in prison, whose work is sought. He produces greeting cards for holidays, or as commissioned for special occasions. He is a loving father to three children. He lives in the Newton facility, where he produced this portrait of Marilyn Monroe."

This page was first displayed
on December 14, 2017

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