With Prison Yard Soil, Jared Owens Paints the Inhumanity of Incarceration

The curator of a powerful Miami Art Week exhibition with Silver Art Projects and Art for Justice addressing the racism imbued within a rarely sung verse of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the New York artist assembled a diverse cohort of creatives to plumb obscured truths and reveal what’s snaking underneath in pursuit of more inclusive dialogue. His own contribution: a stark mixed-media painting whose rows of out-of-focus grayscale figures symbolize millions of incarcerated Americans and were made with soil smuggled from his prison yard.

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Jared Owens, 54, New York (@jaredowensart)

Title of work: Series 111 #11 (2022). 

Where to see it: “Anthem X” at Malin Gallery (2440 NW 5th Ave, Wynwood) until Dec. 3.

Three words to describe it: Stricken, identity, crisis. 

What was on your mind at the time: How to best represent what we know exists but can’t always articulate. 

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: It’s an alcohol “lift” painting, where the image is made by “removing” material. It also has bits of sand on the surface from the prison I spent 13 years in. 

How it reflects your practice as a whole: It’s a snapshot of one painting in a series, that’s an integral part of my visual lexicon as it relates to this specific period. 

One song that captures its essence: “Emotional Rescue” by the Rolling Stones.

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