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San Diego Gallery Spotlights Art By Prison Inmates

Drawings from the "Art Exonerated" exhibition on display at Alexander Salazar's Fine Art Gallery in downtown San Diego.
Alexander Salazar Fine Art Gallery
Drawings from the "Art Exonerated" exhibition on display at Alexander Salazar's Fine Art Gallery in downtown San Diego.

San Diego Gallery Spotlights Art By Prison Inmates
San Diego Gallery Spotlights Art By Prison Inmates GUEST: Alexander Salazar, owner, Alexander Fine Art Gallery

A unique art show is on display now in downtown San Diego. It does not include the cost or Rembrandt instead it features are creative like prison inmates. The exhibit Art Exonerated. It is put on by Alexander Salazar who has his own gallery downtown. He was inspired by something that happened to his dad 25 years ago. Alexander Salazar joins me now. This ticket exhibit comes at the end of a personal journey for you. Your father was shot and nearly killed by two teams when you are living in Dallas about 20 years ago. Some think people think that you would want nothing to do with art dumb by prisoners. What treated this? It was actually in Houston Texas where I grew up with the shooting happened. It took 25 years for me to get here today. It was a lot of avoidance and denial in hate and fear. And never forgiveness. Even as I speak about this today, I do not say that everyone in my family feels the same. I in fact I don't think anyone else feels the same. I'm the only one who is reached the point where I can say that I need to move on and forget. This exhibit, having the conversations that I've had with prisoners. I am talking nine or 10 page handwritten beautiful letters. Expressing not only they are sort of apologies, even though they had nothing to do with my father shooting, they are apologizing to me. Which is heartfelt. I get teary-eyed just thinking of it. It is a very interesting dynamic of having to go from really just feeling I am never going to forgive to wishing them the worst two I do forget. I do understand. There are other stories. This is just one segment of my journey and it is a segment about prison systems. Can you describe some of the pieces in this exhibit? It's interesting because there are different levels of art. Different storylines. I initially started to come like prison art. All of it more based on Chicano art. I was more interested in Matt and introduced to more of that art because of my personal heritage. My college experience being a part of Chicano movements. Taught me by artwork created by inmates. On handkerchiefs. To me that was fascinating. It was an extension of tattoo art placed on a canvas which was the handkerchief in this case. That is been going on for many years. The Smithsonian Museum has it collection of prison art. A lot of that is attuned to that Chicano history. That Americana type of art. It comes from inmates. It is very intricate design. The sense of accomplishment of being able to take a ballpoint pen and do it on a very delicate, sin cotton cloth and get depth, outlining and not smudge it, is really fascinating to me. I correlate pure art. It is -- I called pure art. It is not influenced by media. It is what they remember. Even someone has been incarcerated for 20 years, some of those pieces are still stuck in those cultural experiences. Alexander, there have been other shows featuring prison art and some of them have gotten a lot of people it upset. Because notorious inmates. Charles Manson Richard Ramirez. Have you any concerns about this particular exhibit question mark I have not had one negative thing said about this exhibit. It was something that never even occurred to me that might happen. Yes there are and have been other exhibits that I would never participate in. For example, someone did approach me about representing an artist that was a sexual predator. I said absolutely not. Of course I'm going to draw line. I would never exhibit an artist that was convicted of sexually assaulting a murderer child. So the result level of people -- that people need to understand. Not just of your prison you can show. The crimes due to be explained to me. I need to see some type of reform by these individuals. That's what I see in the conversation with the family members. The prisoners have to designate a family member to receive it. The funds have to go the family member. That is just a great way for a father or mother to still be able to help their children on the outside. They are not making money in prison but if they can create a pair of earrings and celebrate $30 and get $15 to the wife, husband or kid, that is just awesome. No one should prevent that. Finally, does this exhibit help you heal in any way question mark It has remove so many weights off my neck, my body. It has been quite interesting. How beautiful -- I woke up one day the very next day. It just happened. I felt different. I felt really free. It is interesting to get freedom from people that are lacking freedom. The show is called art exonerated. It is that sows are fine Art Gallery in downtown San Diego. Thank you for coming in and speaking with us. Thank you for having me.

Art Exhibit

What: "Art Exonerated"

When: April 16-30

Where: Alexander Salazar Fine Art Gallery

For one local gallery owner, art has no boundaries — even if its creators are behind bars.


Alexander Salazar owns a downtown gallery whose new exhibit, “Art Exonerated," features 50 pieces created by prison inmates, some of them from the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa.

Salazar became interested in prison art in college.

“[Participating in] Chicano movements as an undergrad taught me about artwork that was being created by inmates on cloth, on pañuelos, on handkerchiefs. …. It was an extension of tattoo art,” Salazar told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday.

The exhibit has been a healing experience for Salazar as well. His late father was nearly shot to death by two teenagers in front of his home in Houston in 1991.

Among the art pieces, the exhibit also features letters inmates have sent to Salazar.


“Even though they had nothing to do with my father's shooting, they are apologizing to me, which is heartfelt,” Salazar said. “I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. It's a very interesting dynamic having to go from really just feeling I'm never going to forgive to wishing them the worst to saying I do forgive and I do understand.”

Salazar said he’ll donate some of the exhibit’s proceeds to help victims of crime in Texas in memory of his late father.