The Columbia Girls , 2021

The Columbia Girls is a body of work based on my conversations and interactions with incarcerated youth at the Columbia Secure Center for Girls, a maximum secure facility in Claverack, NY. Using multiple processes of material layering, suspended animation, and prison artifacts the works seek to imbue and restore the lost identities and voices of these teenagers. The sense of identy the prison system stakes away is counter to the self discovery and personal growth particularly important in the developmental life of a teenager girl.

For instance, when they put on the maroon sweatsuit uniforms issued by the state, they become victims to that systems power and control. Each uniform in this series is titled after the initials of one of the youth I have personally worked with. By law, I have to censor their names from the public.

The wall collage “Architecture of Escape” reimagines the architecture of Columbia Secure by layering an areal blueprint of the prison and remapping it with imagery from NASA space stations.  Similar to the way we  look at layered reality through augmentation on our phones, this work bends and shifts imagery taken inside the facility and blurs the boarders of confinement through impressions and outer space strata—creating a new blended architecture of escape.

The Contraband Bags are made with the actual transparent bags used by staff who work in the prison to mitigate the risk that someone could bring in a piece of  “contraband” and give it to one of the youth prisoners. I filled the clear bags with forms of identity contraband for teenage girls. Items that typically have to be earned on the basis of “good behavior”— beauty supplies, candy, cell phone accessories, ect.

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