C’est la vie? Raising Awareness on Capital Punishment through Art
On the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th, different Member States of the EU Delegation are featuring reproductions of works of art created by prisoners on death row outside their embassies in Washington DC.
During one month, the Embassy of Spain of Washington, DC, and its Cultural Office -together with the European Union Delegation, some state members, and Witness to Innocence and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)- showcases a streetside exhibit by people incarcerated on death row at Saint Quentin State Prison in California to raise awareness on capital punishment.
This artistic initiative conveys a creative visual message showing the opposition to the death penalty in contradiction to European values and enshrined in the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights.
The Art of San Quentin exhibit explores the healing and redemptive properties of artmaking. Experiencing the work of these accomplished and resourceful artists helps to break down stereotypes, and initiate dialogue about mass incarceration and capital punishment.
The paintings displayed outside the European embassies are a visual reminder of the dignity of these talented artists. A belief that no human being should ever be subjected to the ultimate and irreversible punishment. Through the power of art, used as a means of survival for those exhibited, they aim to ignite conversations, evoke emotions, and spark introspection about the profound issues surrounding capital punishment.
About Daniel Landry
Daniel Landry is 55 years old, and this is his 22nd year on death row. He was sentenced to death in California in 2001 but has been living behind bars for over 35 years. Art has become an outlet for his moods and one of the few ways, as an imprisoned man, he feels he can leave his mark on the world. “Sometimes I have to do it, draw, paint, something.” Landry tries different styles, reads up, and teaches himself new techniques, art history, and artist biographies, which can inspire him to branch out with his own work.
But sometimes inspiration can be as simple as getting lost in an image. And during times when emotions like frustration, irritation, or anger strike, creativity can flow just as freely.
The easiest and most common way prisoners interact with people outside of the stone walls is through writing letters. For someone who considers himself to have a block when it comes to writing, Landry doesn’t have a lot of options for reaching out, so, overall, he uses art to communicate with the outside world.
To him, art is hope, art is an outlet, art is interaction, art is emotion, and art is learning, changing, and evolving.