Self Inflicted Injury by Zhi Kai Vanderford

Self Inflicted Injury by Zhi Kai Vanderford

Medium: pastels on paper

Size: 37″ x 16.5″

Artist statement: I had a hard time encompassing all that freedom would mean to me. For example, this is a no touch facility, so I haven’t had a hug in 5 years. I will be having a visit soon and remedy that. But the concept is not easily quantifiable, to be able to go to a door and open it, a fridge, a night time sky, petting animals, etc. So I sent you my first piece called ‘self-inflicted injury’ as incarceration is my fault. In my work, I have sewn my eyes and mouth shut but in my mind’s eye I see my potential life. It is not exactly the theme but I am hopeful you will display it. 

Artist bio: Zhi Kai H. Vanderford is a 55 year old driven activist, poet and artist for human rights. A transman and life prisoner, he has spent 36 consecutive years incarcerated between California, Oklahoma and Minnesota women’s prisons. He has a BA in Communications with dual minors in Business Management & Sociology. Minnesota’s Barnes & Thornburg law firm and All Square Restaurant are 2022-2023 benefactors for his paralegal training. His essays can be found in books: Poetry Unbound, Yellow Medicine Review, The Named & the Nameless, Our Red Book, Tuft University’s ReSentencing Journal and All Rise Magazine. Zhi Kai’s poetry & art are intermittently showcased on various and sundry websites such as: Arizona University, Maryland’s Justice Arts Coalition and Pennsylvania’s Prison Health News. Zhi Kai’s career goal is to prevent LGBTQ teen suicide, incarceration and advocate toward better solutions.

Image description: A group of illustrations on unfolded brown paper. The overall structure is two eyes with images above the browbone, around each eye, and coming down the center nose. In each eye is a person: in the left eye is face dressed as with a bridal veil and dress; in the right eye is a person with long brown hair holding a baby wrapped in blue and wearing a pink sweater. Each eye is green and the right eye has a small tear. In the middle where the nose is, two people in orange jumpsuits lifts up a third whose arms are pressed up against the outlines of the nose. Balanced on their head is an anchor affixed to the side of the nose to the left after five links. On the right side of the nose is a silver cell toilet, a faucet comes from the toilet which drops a single drop of water almost onto a person who is sitting with their arms on their knees under the toilet. The space where they sit is blue like water, but appears to have a cloud in it. 

Above the brow bone to the left, from left to right, are: a cupcake with blue icing and a red candle in it; two flowers one purple and one red; a blue graduation cap. 

In the middle, to the right of the cap, is a kite with four sections, green, blue, yellow, and red. 

Above the brow bone of the right eye is a pregnant person wearing purple with long dark hair looking downward in profile to the left. To their right is a tree with falling leaves of red and yellow and orange. In the upper right corner above the brow bone is a snow person with a scarf and red nose and hat into arms and three buttons. 

Downward from the snow person is a white bathtub with a head poking out, and the shower head is on – thiis is right above the eye on the right (of the person who held the baby). In the bottom right corner is an older face with white hair and a bun. 

To the left of the nose under the eye that held the person in wedding dress and veil are a group of six individuals wearing orange jumpsuits all facing right where the anchor nose scene was. Coming out from behind the left eye, between and below the flowers and the cap is a person swimming. To the left of the left eye is a blue bicycle, and in the bottom left corner is a sunflower with a single green leaf and a red ladybug on the leaf.