We've all had a taste of confinement over the last two-plus years. Not moving freely from place to place as we were accustomed. Products we took for granted either have skyrocketed in price or aren't on shelves. Access to the comforts of family and friends is minimized or non-existent.
"I could see wilderness and people walk by. I knew I should be out there at least once a month, which made it even harder. Didn't see my family for over 18 months"
George Rogers was a prisoner in the United Kingdom. After 2 months of being transferred to his 2nd prison for his 3-year prison bid, Covid struck, locking down the country. Changing the rules of his imprisonment. Like everyone, he adapted. Finding ways to live his "New Normal."
“I took every class they offered. I worked in the radio station, the bee hives, and trained abused birds of prey. Anything I could do to be productive to keep my mind off the time. There are a lot of ways to get sidetracked. Putting you off the path. I wanted my time to be productive”
One of those outlets was art. Never drawing a picture until his prison stay, after two classes, a piece of paper was slipped under his cell door.
“The art teacher invited me to be a part of an art show. This was the only way we could communicate because of lockdown.”
George Rogers is one of 31 artists between the UK and USA to contribute to We Bear. Artist Faye Claridge invited participants to express themselves after viewing folk art images of captive bears in different circumstances. This is during their own 23-hour lockdowns. With no access to classes, educational materials, or visitation.
We Bear by Alvin Smith
Using items lying around the prison yard. George made a 3D model of his “Sweatbox” A shoebox for the cell, matchsticks for his bed, and cutting pieces of his own bedding for sheets and blankets. He, portrayed as the Manbear, is chained down by a sink stopper chain. Making miniatures of items on his cell walls. Reminders of why he was there and what path would lead him to true freedom.
Sweat box We Bear by George Rogers
Over the pond, the UK exhibit brought in people by the droves. Over 52,000 patrons visited Coventry Biennial, a biannual UK art exhibition focusing on social, political, and artistic practices around Coventry and Warwickshire, United Kingdom.
The perspective of the sweat box through the cell window
Now 16 months back home, his perspective on art has changed.
“It’s not as intense making pieces now. I don’t have to hunt for items for projects now.”
We Bear is coming to the US. Its stateside debut happening at the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair July 21st - 23rd. Thanks to the cooperation with the Arts Council England and The University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP). 13 of the pieces presented are from artists in Michigan correctional facilities.
If you want an early behind-the-scenes look, July 14th with George and another freed artist. Learn more about their process, inspiration, and stories before the main event. For more information on this and other upcoming exhibits from PCAP, please visit http://www.prisonarts.org/