When Art’s Against the Carceral State

Jared Owens is as much a self-proclaimed witch doctor as he is an artist. It’s been 10 years since he was incarcerated at FCI Fairton, a federal prison in New Jersey, and yet he is still sprinkling soil he smuggled via peanut butter jars from the facility’s recreational yard onto his paintings—one of many mediums he uses to speak to the carceral state in the United States. “To me, the soil is a sacred material,” the artist shares from his studio in the World Trade Center complex, where he is currently in residence at Silver Art Projects. “I took this soil from a place of congregation, a place of pain—think of all the blood on here from injuries, the tears, the sweat. That DNA, the memory of where the soil came from, it’s embedded in my paintings.”

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