Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Poem for Clarence O'Neal

Last week while in Fort Lauderdale, we made an enjoyable stop at the NSU Art Museum. Then I came across this art from artist Reginald O'Neal.

Clarence by Reginald O'Neal, Full Display

The art piece is called Clarence, a painting of the artist's brother in prison paired below with prison uniform, toiletries and pillow. This was the artist's statement:

On the occasion of Lineages, O'Neal has added an installation portion to his work, in order to further contextualize his paintings. The stark reality of prison life is brought into the museum through the presence of a set of standard-issue items, given to prisoners when they enter incarceration: a basic uniform, slip-on shoes, pillow, toothbrush, brand-less deodorant and soap. The inclusion of these clinically impersonal objects reasserts the stripping away of identity that initiates people into the carceral system. In order to counteract this system of dehumanization, O'Neal offers visitors the chance to write their own message to his brother Clarence (depicted in this painting) which he will then collect and share with the sibling.

Reginald O'Neal, Clarence, 2020

I sat down near the painting and wrote the poem below.

for Clarence

Assign the guards,
the warden, the
governor, parole board
to say one thing
they'd be forced
to confess
if facing you
in place of camera
in shoes with no support.
Anything other
than "next," maybe 
silence, nobody knows.
Poem written on Index card


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