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Incarceration Nation Shines a Light on the Prison Industrial Complex with Virtual Reality Exhibit

For Immediate Release

Post Date:12/06/2018 11:25 AM

Media Contact:

Library Contact:
Maria Sundeen
Principal Administrator, Marketing


Curator Contact:
Ara Oshagan & Anahid Oshagan
ReflectSpace Co-Curators
(818) 548-7814


Incarceration Nation Shines a Light on the Prison Industrial Complex with Virtual Reality Exhibit

Glendale, CA – Acclaimed ReflectSpace gallery is launching its first exhibit exploring issues around the criminal justice system in the U.S. Titled, Incarceration Nation: the US Prison Industrial Complex, the artwork aims to highlight the prison industrial complex and brings together works by contemporary artists, collaborations, archives, prisoner-made art, and technology to speak to these statistics in unexpected ways. The Gallery is located inside the Glendale Downtown Central Library.

Incarceration Nation at ReflectSpace runs from December 14, 2018 to February 10, 2019. The opening reception will be from 7-9 pm on December 14, 2018. The exhibit is co-curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan.

About the U.S. Prison System

The statistics of the U.S. prison system are staggering. While the U.S. has 4.4% of the world’s population, the prison system houses 22% of the world’s prisoners. It is by far the highest of any industrialized nation in the world—5 times higher than Canada and Europe and 4 times higher than Mexico. On any given day nearly 2.3 million people are held in more than 6,000 incarceration facilities across the country. That comes to 1 in every 100 adults. The cost of all this to taxpayers: nearly $80 billion per year.

About the Exhibition

Touching on issues as diverse as prison geography and prisoner-made portraits, letters and images from inside, art by the formerly incarcerated, resistance-art and virtual reality (VR) installation, the exhibit subverts normative behind-the-prison-bars imagery to bring a more nuanced and collaborative consideration of the cost of our massive and brutal Prison Industrial Complex.

Artists in Incarceration Nation: Josh Begley, Alyse Emdur, Ara Oshagan, Shiela Pinkel, Mark Strandquist, Jack L. Morris and David Williams. Also on display will be a virtual reality experience of incarceration produced in collaboration with teens in juvenile hall.

Opening Reception:  Fri Dec 14, 7-9pm

Program -  Thu Jan 17, 7pm: Incarceration Panel – includes the film, “The Squires of San Quentin” led by – filmmaker John McDonald.


About The Artists

Josh Begley

A view into the geography of incarceration via satellite imagery, Josh Begley’s “Prison Map” is not a map. Begley’s work is a collection of satellite imagery of every incarceration facility in the United States, nearly 6000 of them (excluding just a handful of states). “Prison Map” is a bird’s eye-view into the sprawl and immensity of the prison system.

Alyse Emdur

Taking a much more intimate approach, Alyse Emdur collects photographs of prison inmates representing themselves in front visit room backdrops. Such backdrops, often painted by talented inmates, are used within the prisons as portrait studios. Emdur also photographs these backdrops.The work “explores this little known and largely physically inaccessible genre of painting and portraiture seen only by inmates, visitors, and prison employees,” says Emdur.

Ara Oshagan

Ara Oshagan, working with filmmaker Leslie Neale, presents collaborative portraits of incarcerated youth in the California prison system. Combining his photographs with the youth’s emotional and insightful thoughts in their own handwriting, the work stands between the inside and out and underscores the youth’s authentic voices.

Sheila Pinkel

Artist Sheila Pinkel’s massive work presents the products of prison labor—a typically overlooked aspect of the prison system where prisoners are firefighters, make license plates, as well as build various kinds of furniture for the government agencies.

Jack L. Morris and David Williams

The works of formerly incarcerated artist Jack L. Morris and currently incarcerated artist David Williams, present a lucid and poignant voice of resistance from the inside: their work reaches back to Mayan and African artforms for inspiration and material. It is their identity, inherent in their work that resists a system of jumpsuits, gray walls, and numbers that dehumanize inmates at every juncture.

Mark Strandquist

Artist Mark Strandquist’s work stands at the intersection of art and social justice. He presents two projects in “Incarceration Nation.” Shot and produced by teens in juvenile hall, “Step Into My Cell” is a virtual reality experience that tells the story of youth incarceration in an immersive environment. Also, on display will be “People’s Reentry Think Tank”, a project developed by Strandquist and Courtney Bowles, that turn criminal records into pieces of art. Over 100 of these original artworks will be on display.


About ReflectSpace

ReflectSpace is an inclusive exhibition gallery designed to explore and reflect on major human atrocities, genocides and civil rights violations. Immersive in conception, ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology and interactive media to reflect on the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues.

About Library, Arts & Culture

Glendale’s Library, Arts & Culture Department began in 1907 and includes six neighborhood libraries as well as the Brand Library & Art Center, housed in the historic 1904 mansion of Glendale pioneer Leslie C. Brand, and the Downtown Central Library, a 93,000 square foot center for studying, learning and gathering. For more information call Library, Arts & Culture at 818-548-2030 or see the website


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