Tamms Year Ten Family Room
In the Spring 2014 I joined forces with artist and activist Laurie Jo Reynolds and others on the Tamms Year Ten (TY10) campaign. Tamms was a notorious supermax prison built in Southern Illinois in 1998 that was designed for sensory deprivation. Some inmates remained there for more than a decade in conditions the United Nations has identified as torture. TY10 members include those who have been incarcerated at Tamms, their family members, artists and attorneys. TY10’s organizing, legislative and advocacy work, which began in 2006, led to the closing of Tamms in 2013 by Governor Pat Quinn. Since then the group has advocated for prison reform, including a ban on solitary confinement in our state prison system.
In 2014, for an exhibit at Sullivan Galleries in Chicago, I worked with Reynolds and TY10 to visit more than twenty TY10 members in their homes, talk with them, take photographs and borrow an item or a piece of furniture from their homes. The furniture and objects filled the gallery room for the exhibition “Tamms Year Ten Family Room” at Proximity of Consciousness, a group show of socially engaged artists curated by Mary Jane Jacob and exhibited at the Sullivan Galleries September 19—December 20, 2014. This space was used as the meeting place for TY10 after the 2014 midterm election. The photographs of TY10 members and their homes were hung on the wall as a way of showing dignity and respect to the people who have struggled painfully with injustice, and to reflect the space of their real lives in the shared family room. The shared experience of looking at their portraits and photos of their homes strengthened the solidarity of the campaign members. The installation’s purpose was to invite viewers to see the political significance of the campaign for the victims who were very brutally and unequally incarcerated, and eventually to encourage them to vote for Governor Quinn.