Solitary Garden with jackie sumell

jackie sumell, Solitary Garden, UC Santa Cruz Installation view, 2019
jackie sumell, Solitary Garden, UC Santa Cruz Installation view, 2019

Solitary Garden, the participatory public sculpture and garden project by jackie sumell, is on view at UC Santa Cruz Baskin Art Studios.

Online tools and a video tour of Solitary Garden are here.

Perched on a slope at UC Santa Cruz overlooking Monterey Bay, Solitary Garden is a sculpture made following the blueprint of a standard U.S. solitary confinement cell. Around this small prison cell is a garden of flowers and vegetables, designed by Tim Young, currently incarcerated in San Quentin, and communicated via letters and drawings to the students and volunteers who are planting and tending the garden as his proxies. As flowers and vegetables grow up around the cell, the garden transforms the image of confinement into a space of nourishment and hope.

The process of collaboratively nurturing the garden is an opportunity for participants to, as sumell describes, “imagine a landscape without prisons.”

“While the United Nations has condemned the practice of solitary confinement as torture,” the artist explains, “there are an estimated 61,000 people held in isolation for 22-24 hours each day in U.S. prisons. Solitary Garden is a call to end this appalling practice."

Tim Young's letters and writings for Solitary Garden can be found here.

Write to Tim: Timothy Young, #F23374, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974.

Solitary Garden is part of Barring Freedom, a multi-faceted, 18-month project which includes exhibitions of art, events and workshops, and an online event series on the theme of Visualizing Abolition October 20, 2020- May 11, 2021. Barring Freedom brings together artists, activists, and scholars to imagine alternatives to our fundamentally flawed criminal justice system and to galvanize a broader public to address the broken promise of freedom and justice for all in the United States.

jackie sumell is a multidisciplinary artist inspired by the lives of everyday people. Her work speaks to both traditional artist communities and those historically marginalized by structural racism. sumell’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the US and Europe. Her residencies and awards include 2017 Blade of Grass-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellow in Criminal Justice, 2016 Robert Rauschenberg Artist-As-Activist Fellowship, 2015 Eyebeam Project Fellowship, and 2008 Akademie Solitude Fellowship. An ardent public speaker and prison abolitionist, sumell has lectured in Colleges and Universities around the US including UC Berkeley (BAMPFA), RISD, ZKM Karlsruhe, and as keynote for the National Prisoner Advocacy Conference 2014. sumell began the Solitary Gardens project to honor the legacy of political prisoner Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary confinement for over 40 years and with whom jackie corresponded and collaborated for 12 years. Her collaborative work with Herman Wallace, The House That Herman Built, is the subject of the Emmy Award Winning documentary Herman’s House, screened to a national audience on PBS in 2013. sumell’s work explores the intersection of creative practices, mindfulness studies, social sculpture, and the principles of The Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Anna Maria Camardo. "Imagining a Landscape Without Prisons." City of the Hill Press, January 1, 2020.

Peggy Townsend. "A Growing Movement." UC Santa Cruz Magazine, Spring 2020.