Free Currents by Darrell van Mastrigt

Free Currents by Darrell van Mastrigt

Medium: Acrylic on canvas panel
Size: 8″ x 10″

Artist statement: When I paint simple scenes like this, it reminds me that we have so many choices in life. Every choice creates a different outcome and direction to our life. Our choices today dictate what choices will be available to us tomorrow. A choice may create new responsibilities or fulfill old ones. Even when not seen, there are currents at work that directly and indirectly affect our lives. A viewer can get on the boat and let the currents carry them. They may set sail to go faster or slow the current by dropping and anchor. However, once they board the boat, a commitment has been made to choose some action. A bird flying on the wind currents is the same. Once the commitment to fly was taken, further actions must be taken involving those air currents. Even the observer to this picture must make a choice to go forward and see what is ahead, go back the way they came from, or remain still until the scenery changes. Freedom is about choices and understanding the influences and currents that impact our choices. Every choice we make today limits or expands our future choice options. In every action we take, we have the choice to better the lives of those around us and ourselves. That is freedom.

Image description (Alt Text) This acrylic on canvas panel portrays the seashore on a blue sky day with feathery clouds. A sailboat is far off from shore on calm seas while five seagulls fly in the breeze. The sand beach is bleached by the sun and features large and small clumps of seagrass.

Artist statement/bio 

My definition of freedom is: The ability to see beauty in every person, every thing, and every situation you find yourself in each day. It is your choice to be in beauty, accept a part in making beauty, and end each day knowing you made the right choices to help those you love, those you encounter every day, and those still to come after you. Freedom is not free.

Making the right choices of sacrifice to help others, and yourself, create beauty is a hard thing to do. Letting go of hate, anger, bias, selfishness, destructiveness, depression and the virus of popular culture is required if you truly seek freedom. When I had just turned 18, society threw me away and almost succeeded in snuffing my spirit, taking my voice, and stopping me from seeing any beauty in the world or myself. I wanted to die because I was reacting to other people’s views being imposed upon me and letting them influence my actions.I had no idea who I was. Our justice system, while better than most, is blind to truth, fairness, innocence, compassion, or restoring balance to the people caught up in its machinations. doesn’t care about the victim’s needs or offender’s future actions. It leaves behind families from every walk of life that are torn apart and left to heal on their own (or not!) Thirty-five years later I know the true and honest reality. My family saved me. My friends saved me. My faith saved me.

And, most importantly, the beauty that surrounds us always saved me when I chose to see it and accept it. No matter where I am, that’s my true freedom. I am trying to free myself physically from prison through commutation. My confidence in that process is not very high. I received one vote at my last merit review hearing. But, taking any chance at being with my family and giving back even some of the love and support they’ve given me is better than no chance at all.

Much of my daily freedom comes literally from creating beauty others can enjoy, be inspired by, and share with others. The mural arts program I created at SCI-Fayette allows prison artists the opportunity to share their creativity, skill and vision of beauty with others. Our large projects cover the walls of the prison to convey hope and possible better futures and better relationships amongst the population. Some of our projects are community based and a way for “thrown-away” people to give back to their communities in a positive and good way. A way for the forgotten to be seen and heard through beauty. My personal work (paintings and cards) is freedom. I paint beauty to share with others. Most of what I paint I’ve never experienced.

Besides trips as a kid to Disneyworld, Niagara Falls, and Sea World in Ohio, I never left Pittsburgh before being locked up for life. Never even owned a driver’s license. So my freedom, my traveling, my observance of natural beauty is done through my paintings. I love to paint my desires, my hopes for a better future, my well wishes for others, my dreams and my heart. Beauty really does exist all around us when we choose to see it and be part of it. unbroken and free. Regardless of being locked in a cage, for decades, my spirit remains. My life has meaning for others in my actions and I choose to embrace any opportunity for good despite the likelihood that I will never be free of this physical prison. Freedom is about much more than just your physical environment.