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Jane Lindsay‘s exhibition From the Outside In: Sustenance and Time closes at the Northlight Gallery on the Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, this coming Saturday, the 29th. Try to make it if you can.

Lindsay has transformed the space with a multimedia installation of photographs and video within and around a modified jail cell and a dinner table. It’s intended to be an environment in which the discussion of complex and emotionally charged issues of safety, justice, civil liberties and social responsibility is supported.

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The meditative space includes framed and light-box portraits, prison art and letters as well as the products from light painting and art workshops as well as extended discussion with prisoners at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center about food security, nutrition and agribusiness.

‘Why are they talking about food?’ you might ask. Well apart form the fact that nutritious food is not guaranteed in many U.S. prisons, food is a foundational part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Lindsay believes a person’s ability to fulfill his or her basic needs of food, shelter and a sense of belonging directly influences their potential. Furthermore, if and when these needs are uncertain, teachable skills and coping mechanisms will either support positive development toward self-actualization or distort such development.

Lindsay is calling for balanced lives and balanced views.

(More of the project on Lindsay’s website here.)

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Lindsay’s work is replete with compassion. I had the pleasure to meet and speak with her in 2011. Out of that meeting, I invited her to exhibit her work Gems in my co-curated show Cruel and Unusual at Noordelricht Photo Gallery in Groningen, Netherlands. Lindsay is no bleeding heart liberal, though. She has a strong moral compass and her work ties issues of transgression and social ills to poverty and inequality. We need such complex appreciation of complex issues. She also has every excuse to be angry, afraid and vengeful. Some years ago, a close member of her family was brutally assaulted and the recovery for all was tortuous. It is likely still ongoing.

For Lindsay, the the judicial process that purports to hand down justice, was more trauma. The perpetrator was convicted, but the sentence gave Lindsay no peace. She saw that prison — in most cases — rarely addresses the underlying issues of poverty, mentorship, security and social inequity she identifies to be at the core of criminal behavior.

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To quote the press release, From the Outside In: Sustenance and Time employs the theme of the family meal to represent the sustenance both literally in the form of food and figuratively in the sense of belonging created within the community and within the home around the dinner table. Lindsay urges audiences to reconsider the roll of the family and civil society as well as definitions of victim and perpetrator.

Lindsay worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor for 15 years in Texas. Her clients included victims and people who were on parole and probation. Since returning to college as a mature grad, Lindsay has pursued art that tackles education, mutual respect and responsibility. Crucially her work directly involves prisoners, families and even detention officers.

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“By involving prisoners and their families in self-actualization through creativity, society is directly influenced, the outside world becoming a safer place for everyone,” explains Lindsay. “The inclusive nature of the project promotes agency of the prisoners, presenting them not just as subjects, but also as direct contributors to the telling of their story.

With the aid of Detention Officer Sandra Price, Lindsay developed the program to include 25 prisoners, both female and male, who were serving time accused of drug offenses, theft or violent crimes.

“A vast majority of our inmates behind bars have the skills and talents needed to succeed in life and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, because they have committed a crime, their dreams were temporarily put on hold,” says Sheriff Paul Babeu in the Northlight Gallery press release. “When they are successful in society it greatly reduces their likeliness of reoffending.”

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JANE LINDSAY

Lindsay received an MFA in photography from Arizona State University. She moved to Arizona from rural West Texas where she worked as a counselor, social worker and investigator. She has shown her work in several venues including, Texas Photograph Society, Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock Texas, Cooper Grand Hall in New York, Photoville in New York, Noorderlicht Photography Gallery, and North Light Gallery in Tempe, Arizona. Her short film “Dan’s Big Find” recently won the Arizona award in the Arizona International Film Festival. Jane teaches photography at Mesa Community College and she is a TA at ASU.

PHOTO TAPAS

From the Outside In: Sustenance and Time is exhibited as part of PhotoTapas, a statewide Arizona celebration of photography that involves the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, alternative art spaces such as the Ice House in Phoenix, as well as ASU’s Northlight Gallery.

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