Rikers Island, New York’s notorious jail, houses thousands of men and women awaiting trial or convicted of short sentences. Almost everyone in the jail has experienced some form of trauma, further compounded by the cruel conditions of incarceration. In this environment, a group of art therapists is working to improve the lives of prisoners in the mental health observation units through the process of making art. The program is the subject of Tess Thackara’s recent piece, “For Rikers’s Most Troubled Inmates, Art Offers Hope.” We discuss the neurological underpinnings of art therapy, the difficulties that therapists experience teaching in jails, and how programs such as this can provide much-needed healing, as well as concrete life skills, for inmates both while in the jail and in the outside world upon their release.
Next, we look at German painter Georg Baselitz and ask, as a recent story did: Should his misogyny affect our appreciation of his work? In 2013, the artist remarked that “women don’t paint very well,” setting off a firestorm of critique but, for many at least, not diminishing the artist’s place in the art-historical canon. So how do we square an artist’s biography and beliefs with their work? Can the two be separated? What context about an artist’s political and personal life needs to be provided to the average museum-goer?
This podcast is hosted by Artsy Editorial Associate Isaac Kaplan, joined for this edition by Deputy Editor Alexander Forbes and Senior Editor Tess Thackara. It was produced by Joe Sykes with assistance from Editorial Associate Abigail Cain.
Intro Music: “Something Elated” by Broke For Free
Cover image by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.