‘I Love Expressing Myself This Way’

View  works from current, former prisoners during SMU exhibit, auction

Jerzy Kosinski once said, “The principle of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.”

That idea comes to life in SMU’s Pollock Gallery’s most recent exhibit, “The Arts of Oppression.”

In collaboration with Dallas nonprofit Miles of Freedom, which helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate back into society, the Pollock Gallery’s Arts of Oppression showcases current and former inmates’ works.

The exhibit also includes an auction with proceeds benefiting the featured artists and Miles of Freedom.

Pieces featured range from depictions of struggle and turmoil, such as the Vietnam War or the crucifixion of Jesus, to calming scenes such as a bird pecking at a dandelion.

Not only does this exhibit invite viewers to consider important issues such as human rights and the criminal justice system, but the process of creating these works also provides many of the artists with relief and an avenue for expression.

“I love expressing myself this way,” said Arthur Anguiano, an artist featured in the show. “It’s just about having the freedom to take that leap of faith and letting the work speak to you. All you have to do is take one step, and you’ll learn from your own walk. This is me walking, and I’m grateful for the people who have helped me along the way.”

Richard Miles, the founder of Miles of Freedom, started the nonprofit after he was wrongfully convicted of murder, imprisoned for 15 years, then fully exonerated in 2012. Miles is also aware of the benefits art has had on both the artist and the viewers.

“The individuals involved in our organization just want to be seen, and I think through their art, you can see them by their virtue and not their past,” Miles said. “This exhibit creates a moment of empathy. When you come in here and look at the art, you connect. You’re brought into a space where you want to know more.”

Arts of Oppression provokes undeniable emotion and invites visitors to ask themselves questions they may have long ignored.

Each piece featured is not only beautifully executed but demands answers. If that isn’t art, I’m not sure what is. 

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