How art gets generated.

Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three Opens Exhibition of Art Created on Death Row

Damien Echols

Damien Echols

In painstakingly detailed drawings of Buddha and careful collage,Damien Echols used art as a solace while on death row for 18 years as one of the wrongfully imprisoned West Memphis Three. Released in August 2011, he opened an art exhibition earlier this month, “Moving Forward; Looking Back,” at Sacred Gallery NYC in Soho. All the art on display was made while in prison for three 1993 murders that he did not commit.

He writes in his artist statement:

These pieces of art are all things I created from my cell on death row,where I spent 18 years for a crime I did not commit. During that time, I had to scavenge for any supplies I got, often bartering for them in the prison underground.

I eventually received ordination in the Rinzai tradition of Japanese Buddhism. This is the same tradition that trained the samurai in ancient Japan. It was this background which was the driving force behind much of my artwork. Most of it was the result of me attempting to turn my cell into a shrine,where I would practice meditation from 5 to 7 hours a day.

Most of the pieces I created over the years were either given to friends as gifts of gratitude or destroyed by vindictive prison guards. These pieces are all that remain of my 18 years in Hell.

Sacred Gallery NYC is just adjacent to Sacred Tattoo where, according to a recent profile in New York magazine, Echols has also been doing “X” tattoos. The exhibition is up through January 31.

By Alison Meier, January 11, 2013; In the Art Blog,

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