Opening Reception: Solitary Garden, November 5

jackie sumell, Solitary Garden, Installation view, Newcomb College, 2019
jackie sumell, Solitary Garden, Installation view, Newcomb College, 2019
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Baskin Art Studios Quad

The Institute of the Arts is Sciences is proud to present the participatory public sculpture and garden project Solitary Garden, by jackie sumell, November 5, 2019- December 6, 2020. Solitary Garden is part of Barring Freedom, a multi-faceted, 18-month project which includes exhibitions of art, events and workshops, and a multi-day symposium at UC Santa Cruz, “Visualizing Prison Abolition,” October 15-17, 2020. 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.

Solitary Garden Opening Reception
Baskin Art Studios, Quad
November 5, 2019
5:30-6:45 p.m.

Traction: Art Talk with jackie sumell
Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) 108
November 5, 2019
7-9 p.m.

Solitary Garden is an evocative and poignant 6x9 sculpture the size and shape of a solitary confinement cell, surrounded by a garden, and located overlooking the Monterey Bay near the Baskin Art Studios at UC Santa Cruz. The participatory public sculpture and garden project is part of a larger project by artist jackie sumell in which she transforms solitary confinement cells into vibrant garden beds. The contents (plants, flowers and herbs) of the prison-cell-turned-garden-bed are designed by prisoners serving their sentences in isolation through proxies on the outside. 

At UC Santa Cruz, Solitary Garden is created in collaboration with Tim Young, currently incarcerated at San Quentin. Students and volunteers are planting and tending a garden designed by Young and communicated through letters and drawings. The collaborative project aims to allow the community to imagine a landscape without prisons.

The public sculpture and garden project is designed to draw attention to the inhumane conditions of the criminal justice system and the practice of solitary confinement in the United States. While the United Nations has condemned the practice as torture, 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 the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement, simultaneously inspiring compassion necessary to dismantle systems of punishment and control. 

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.

* Liman Center for Public Interest Law, Yale Law School, 2018