Portrait of Merle Haggard

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 Merle Haggard, Graphite on paper, 12" x 16", undated

From Doren L. Walker, collector: "This portrait of Merle Haggard was drawn by artist Bill Hildebrand. He has stopped drawing because of his advanced age, and related problems with eyesight. Mr. Hildebrand is housed at Oakdale where he is active in the Community Choir directed by Dr. Mary Cohen, and he sings Saturday nights at chapel. He was a top-quality artist and this portrait was drawn on high quality drawing paper purchased from Dick Blick. Mr. Hildebrand's work has always commanded the highest prices paid in prison. He is well known for his scenes of the old West, including images of horses, buffalo, and Native American and American cowboy images."

This page was first displayed
on December 18, 2017

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