Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Creativity of Man (in Prison)

Here are some photographs of a few trinkets made/crafted by male prisoners that show us the innate creativity of men.  It also shows us that creativity will express itself in the most un-expected locations: prisons, prisoner of war camps, and other places which are seemingly anti-thetical to the creative arts.
 
 
Prison Art of American Prisoners of War (the American Revolutionary War):
A Prisoner-of-War chip carved and inlaid valuables box, made by an American Revolutionary War prisoner at Mill Prison, Plymouth, dated September 4th, 1777.
 
 
Prison Art of Mexican Civilian Prisoners (the 1800's):

19th Century Mexican Coconut Shell Carving Likely Veracruz Prison San Juan de Ulua

 
A stunning late 19th century hand carved Mexican coconut bank with beautiful silver inlay, pigmented resin and inlaid button eyes - circa 1880 -1900. Most likely from the infamous 'San Juan de Ulua' prison in Veracruz.


Prison Art of American Prisoners of War (the American Civil War):

[A] wooden folk art club (shown here), 12 3/4 inches long, with relief-carved inscription; [..]The club is carved with his corps emblem, a Bible, vines, arrows, a checkered-pattern and a star.

 
Prison Art of French Prisoners of War (the Napoleonic War):


Although it’s recorded they were treated exceptionally well by the English, because the skirmishes between the two European forces dragged on for years some prisoners remained locked away for over a decade, so they needed something to pass the time. Prisoners would keep pig and mutton bones from the food rations issued to them by the English, boil them and bleach them in the sun.
(Source: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/creepy-yet-beautiful-ship-models-made-of-human-bones-by-pows.html)

Bone carving from Napoleonic wars prisoner. Intricately carved automaton to depict a woman using a sewing machine. Early 19th century. Includes fitted wooden base. Measures 4 inches high plus 1/4-inch base height.
(Source: http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/antiques-americana/artists-in-the-clink-antique-folk-art-made-by-prisoners)

This working model guillotine is made of cow bone crafted by prisoners of war held at Norman Cross prison camp near Peterborough during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
(Source: http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/art438876)

 
A FINE EARLY 19TH-CENTURY NAPOLEONIC FRENCH PRISONER-OF-WAR CARVED BONE AND WOOD GAMES BOX.
(Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/453245149972083080/)
 
Unknown artist, made in Great Britain, probably by French sailors, early 19th century. Three-decker 100 Gun Warship, Victory (used as a funerary catafalque for Vice-Admiral Nelson), Prisoner of War Model, c. 1806. wood (variety), varnished; copper and copper alloy; mica, 28.5 x 11.0 x 42.0 cm.
(Source: http://artmatters.ca/wp/2010/04/maureen-scott-harris-on-nelsons-catafalque-audio/)
 
Intricate Carved Bone Clock Tower - Napoleonic Prisoner-of-War Artifact.[..]
9 1/2 inches high x 7 1/2 inches wide x 2 1/2 inches deep
(Source: http://www.vallejogallery.com/item.php?id=291)

 
Prison Art of Turkish Prisoners of War (The First World War):
A British 13-pounder shell case, worked into an engraved tobacco jar by Turkish prisoners of war in the Middle East. The man who decorated it evidently possessed considerable metalworking skills; it is elaborately engraved with Islamic decorative motifs and calligraphy. Sections of the design are enhanced with an inlay of copper and silver wire.
SCISSORS Made from scrap metal by Akira Oye.

WASHBOARD Made from carved wood by Shigeru Sueoka.
  
Cranes carved out of mesquite and scrap lumber by Jitsuro Hiramoto.
 
A samurai crafted of shells by Kinoe Adachi.


Prison Art of USA Civilian Prisoners (1900-1950):
Carved and painted wood folk art steam locomotive, original black paint with gold trim, 27 inches long, 10 inches high, on an original 30-inch section of wooden display track painted the same gold as the trim on the locomotive. Metal fittings in various areas throughout. Tradition says this was made by a State of Maine prisoner around 1900.

1920s folk art “Texas Prison” figure, 3 1/4 inches high

Prisoner-carved man, probably made in the 1940s or early 1950s. Given by a prisoner in Cincinnati area to Bud Smith, a jailer at the Ohio Penitentiary and taken to his family home in West Virginia. The carved man stands 10 inches tall and is 3 1/2 inches wide. He has carved and jointed arms that are pegged into the shoulders but can be removed; fingers stiffly carved out, eyes carved and painted. The folk art man was painted white with a creamy face and brown hair, tan boots. Honest wear to all of the extremities of the figure.
(Source: http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/antiques-americana/artists-in-the-clink-antique-folk-art-made-by-prisoners)


Final Thoughts
These photographs show us what men with little to no formal education, or training in woodcraft/stonecarving skills, can achieve; even in the harshest environments of their day.  All it requires from the man is passion/joy (that is concordant with the work itself) and patience.  It doesn't require special materials, tools, or teaching.  All of these things can be developed by the man according to his own Will:
  • he can use whatever material he can find lying around in the prison yard or rubbish heap;
  • he can make his own tools from cutlery, screws, scrap metal etc;
  • he can learn techniques to shape the material firsthand rather than learning from a book or a teacher.
And that's it!  It's very simple really.  Creating and learning is a simple joyful process.  It a process that has been over-complicated, or attacked, by elements of society and turned into something in-accessible by the average John Doe.  But that's society, not men.  It's certainly not the men whose works are featured in this post.  Men who, despite being held captive in some of the most hostile environments known to man, created beautiful works of art for themselves and their fellow man to enjoy.  And that's what we should focus on.
 

[End.]

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