Unit 2: A Retrospective

Artwork from the exhibitBy Joshua Colton Treadwell

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of https://reachcoalition.wordpress.com

The current exhibition in the Nabit Art Building shows work created as a collaboration between prisoners on death row at Tennessee’s Riverbend Maximum Security Prison, and students and faculty of Watkins College of Art, Design and Film. Works on display include a variety of mediums, all centering on the lives of the inmates from Unit 2. This exhibition encompasses a lot of different works, in particular some of the most interesting works centered upon experiences that the prisoners (or insiders) experienced vicariously with the artists (or outsiders). The artists experienced things that the insiders could not, and documented their experience as part of their work. One such piece is a collaborative work called “Surrogate project for Harold Wayne Nichols: The Night Sky Series,” This pigment print was made to show the night sky to the insider who had not seen the night sky for years. Other works, of this same nature, include one that documents an experience (suggested by an inmate) of cooking breakfast for dinner.

Collaboration between these two unlikely groups has resulted in amazing work, which adequately describes the complicated circumstances of those who are on the inside (specifically of Unit 2), conveying how the prisoners view the outside world, and how the artists react to these realities. Viewers are also encouraged to participate in the exhibition by adding to work in sketchbooks featured in the center of the display. In addition there are postcards that can be taken by viewers. This kind of public engagement also works well to help the viewer relate to the experience of those insiders on death row.

The artists who contributed to this exhibition are as follows: Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman, Mika Agari, Justin Braun, Holly Carden, Ann Catherine Carter, Ron Cauthern, Tyrone Chalmers, Jessica Clay, Amy Clutter, Gary Cone, Marcus Davidson, David Duncan, John Freeland,Robert Grand, Tom Griscom, Kristi Hargrove, Kennath Artez Henderson, Akil Jahi, Nickolus Johnson, Kay Kennedy, Seth Lykins, Donald Middlebrooks, Upreyl Mitchell, Wayne Nichols, Robin Paris, Derrick Quintero, Zack Rafuls, Sharon Stewart, Alanna Styer, Dennis Suttles, Josh Ungurait, Moses Williams, Tom Williams, Weng Tze Yang, Jayme Yeo, and Barbara Yontz

The show will be up in the Nabit Gallery until March 29.