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JULIE GREEN

A single wall representing the meals of men and women executed in Texas, part of Julie Green’s The Last Supper: 500 Plates exhibited at Marylhurst University, Oregon (April 16 – May 17, 2013). Photo: Pete Brook.

In The Make — a new(ish) website that celebrates artists in their crafty environments with dedicated studio visits and conversations — has a smashing feature on my friend and fellow Oregonian Julie Green. It sure beats the 2011 write-up of my visit to Julie’s studio!

I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity and it’s obstacles recently and I think Julie maintains an incredible output. Part of that is the security of teaching for her but mostly it is passion and commitment to connections and getting the work seen. What use is studio time if the products are not then widely shared?

Julie’s The Last Supper which is now 552 plates deep, is broad and grasps solidly the size of the issue it takes on. Bravo to Julie for leveraging the agency she has as an artist.

Pop over to In The Make and read what makes Julie tick. Here’s a snippet:

Shipping and installation of fragile ceramics is quite an undertaking. I am looking for a library or a university or a museum- in Texas would be great—to donate the project on a ten-year loan. The Last Supper is not for sale.

I plan to continue adding fifty plates a year until capital punishment is abolished. A poet asked if I ever get tired of painting lumpy blue food. No, I don’t.

Oklahoma has higher per capita executions than Texas. I taught there, and that is how I came to read final meal requests in the morning paper. Requests provide clues on region, race, and economic background.

Why is this important? It is because the death penalty is applied unequally depending on the race of the defendant and the victim, not to mention access to adequate counsel, jury bias, prosecutorial misconduct and a whole plethora of factors that make wrongful convictions too frequent to dismiss. End the death penalty and we’ll end the murder of innocent people. As Bryan Stevenson brilliantly puts it, the question isn’t so much does a person deserve to die, it is do we deserve to kill?

ELSEWHERES

I’ve previously talked about Julie’s work herehere and here.

Coincidentally, I edited a story for Wired about the  work of Klea McKenna who is editor of In The Make. Check out Crumpled and Abused Photo Paper Makes for New Landscape Photography

Nash, Leah - Julie Green

Photo: Leah Nash for The New York Times. Plates in “The Last Supper,” a show that features Julie Green’s plates depicting death-row meals.

A couple of years ago, I visited the studio of artist Julie Green. I was compelled to do so because I was convinced that her The Last Supper project was more relevant and hard-hitting than the many, many photo projects about the last meals of the executed.

Julie Green has painted the last meal requests of over 500 prisoners on individual plates. It’s an overwhelming body of work. The Last Supper is now on show at The Arts Center in Corvalis, Oregon.

Kirk Johnson has written The Last Supper for the New York Times:

The underlying and compelling theme of the work is choice. What do people who may have lived for years in prison with virtually no choices at all do with this last one they’re offered? Do they reach back for some comforting reminder of childhood? (Professor Green suspects as much in the cases of meals like macaroni and cheese or Spam.) Do they grasp for foods never tried, or luxuries remembered or imagined? (One condemned man ordered buffalo steak and sugar-free black walnut ice cream; another, fried sac-a-lait fish topped with crawfish étouffée.)

As Green says she won’t stop painting until the death penalty is abolished, there’s a long way to go with this project. It’s great to see it going from strength to strength and pressing the issue to the fore. Bravo, Julie.

BOOK

Accompanying the show is a 520-page lunker of a book. The Arts Center received sponsorship assistance to publish a full color catalog of the 500 plates. The catalog will be for sale during the exhibit for an introductory price of $50 (after February 16, 2013 the price will go up). To purchase a catalog, please contact Hester Coucke and let her know a good time to contact you during the business week.

PRESS

View the full NYT gallery here. And the NYT article, Dish by Dish, Art of Last Meals.

Green’s Interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Geoff Norcross.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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