What We Lose by Elena House-Hay
My piece is titled “What We Lose” and is about the hardships that women experience in prison. We are challenged and depleted in mind, body, and spirit, sometimes by those who are tasked with taking care of us. The building in my painting represents the DOC and the industrial factory of flesh that it is. The text in the windows comes from common phrases I’ve heard from nurses, guards, and other staff. I chose the words because they are both invalidating and routine. The hand and the words outside the building represent the experience of the outside family as they witness the process of incarceration. Lastly, the cold claws reaching out of the building are symbolic of the heartless ingress and egress to and from the system that has left many people feeling as though their flesh and life has been stripped away. The purple skin tone is meant to make the figures universally relatable.
[Image description: The piece depicts an orange colored prison with grey doors chained shut on yellow gradient background. Above the prison there is text that reads, “What we lose.” Atop the prison, behind barbed wire, there are two grey cylinders from which two tubes with claws are holding the bodies of two women: the one on the left is colored in purple with long hair, the other is a skeleton of a person also colored purple. Along the tube to the left reads, “New Commit” leading down to the body, next to which reads “What will we do without her?” Along the tube to the right read, “LWOP” and “Medical Release.” Next to the skeleton on the right are the words, “What have they done with her?” Above the door of the prison are the words “…and what they say…” Above that are prison windows including three images: a green cross surrounded by the words, “Drink water, Lie down,” a grey brain next to the words, “You can read?” and red and pink depiction of the female reproductive system with the words, “Skank, Farry, Ugly, and Bitch.” In the foreground are four hands colored in purple. The hands are in various positions and each has a yellow rectangle with a word inside. From left to right they read, “No,” “Please,” “Why,” and “No.”]
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