The Last Supper: 500 Plates
The Last Supper: 500 Plates
“Why do we have this tradition of final meals, I wondered, after seeing a request for six tacos, six glazed donuts, and a cherry Coke? Fifteen years later, I still wonder.”
In 1998, Julie Green was living and teaching in Norman, Oklahoma, when she first read a prisoner’s last meal request in the newspaper. These reports of the final meal requests of death row inmates were regularly published in the paper in Oklahoma and, as Green would discover, in many others states with the death penalty. Green began making sketches based on the descriptions of these last meals and thinking about what they meant and how to represent them. She considered embroidering images of the meals on napkins, but eventually decided to paint images of the meal requests on plates. In the summer of 2000, she moved to Oregon and started the series, applying blue mineral paint to second-hand plates, which were then kiln-fired. The series, which Green intends to continue as long as the death penalty is legal anywhere in the United States, has grown to more than 500 plates.
The Art Gym’s presentation of The Last Supper: 500 Plates follows major exhibitions at The Art Center in Corvallis, Oregon, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The Art Center—with generous support from The Ford Family Foundation—organized the exhibition and published the accompanying book illustrating of all 500 plates. Green, who is an associate professor at Oregon State University, has had excellent response from the press. She was recently interviewed on NPR, the project was reviewed in The New York Times, and Comedy Central’s Colbert Report has invited her to appear on the program on April 11.
Julie Green was born in Japan in 1961. An Associate Professor at Oregon State University, she lives in the Willamette Valley with her husband, quilter Clay Lohmann, and their small cat, Mini. Half of each year, usually winter months, is spent on The Last Supper. In summer, Green paints personal narratives. Her egg tempera is included in the 7th edition of A World of Art published by Prentice Hall.
Green has had twenty-seven solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, been featured in The New York Times, a Whole Foods mini-documentary, National Public Radio, Ceramics Monthly and Gastronomica, and recently received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors. www.greenjulie.com
The Prison Industrial Complex
Buddy Bunting is a Seattle-based artist. Since 2004, he has made large-scale, panoramic drawings and watercolors of correctional institutions and prisons in the western United States. The Art Gym exhibition contains several of Bunting’s largest prison drawings. The scale of the drawings—from 12 to 30 feet across—reflects the sprawling character of these industrial-scale architectural complexes and the vastness of the Western, often desert landscapes that contain them.
“I’ve always been most interested in where the prisons are built, or more accurately the places and the communities around the facilities. Since prisons are constructed in certain communities for economic and political reasons, my hope in the beginning was that my work would capture the relationship the facilities had on these communities.” -Buddy Bunting, Interview by Amanda Manitach for New American Painting, May 2012
Bunting grew up in Southeast Maryland, where a prison built in a neighboring county now employs a number of his acquaintances and incarcerates others. The rural western landscape is not a familiar place for the artist, but as he has explored the terrain, he has become interested in the large impersonal industrial complexes often built here, including Walmart distribution centers and prisons, both of which he has drawn.
Bunting develops his resource material on site, using video, still photos and sketches. He notes that prisons don’t encourage people to spend time photographing them, but he has been able to gather the material he needs over multiple visits. Bunting’s long uninterrupted renderings resemble architectural illustrations. They do not present views one could encounter driving by these prisons, which are most often intentionally obscured by berms and trees. Prisons the artist has drawn to date include the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility, Grants, New Mexico; Idaho Correctional Center, Kuna, Idaho; Kern Valley State Prison, Delano, California; Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Umatilla, Oregon; and the Snake River Correctional Institution, Ontario, Oregon.
Buddy Bunting has been recognized and his work for this project supported by grants and fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Artist Trust in Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission.
Curated By: Terri Hopkins
On view: April 16- May 17, 2013