Noel is a talented artist in the Oregon Department of Corrections. He gave Prison Fellowship® permission to use these images of his artwork and told us what it's like to create art in prison.
Have you had any formal training in art, whether inside or outside of prison?
I have been in prison for 14 years now and I like to think of my self as a jack-of-all-trades in art; I have learned from family, friends and school. I have taken some art classes such as painting, pottery, and drawing.
Once inside prison I started to draw to send cards home to my family and I really got hooked on drawing. While at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, I got in to the hobby shop and was taught how to air brush which was so fun.
Later I was transferred to Oregon State Correctional Institution and they had a great hobby shop where I learned all kinds of new art styles including wood burning and I fell in love with it. You see, growing up, I went to church and always saw so many great pieces of art that I wish I could do, including wood carving statues and wood burnings. In hindsight it could have been that I grew up in logging towns and wood art is something that is really well liked so I saw all types of wood art. When I found my first wood burner it reminded me of home and I knew I would be great at it if I really tried.
Why this medium?
All these pieces are out of the movie "The Passion of the Christ". This medium motivates me along with the subject matter, as it really just drags me in head over heels sometimes and I don't want to stop working on the piece until it’s perfect. For me, wood burning is easier than drawing on paper and I know it will last way longer on wood than paper.
What motivated you to create these pieces? What is their personal meaning to you?
"The Passion of the Christ" movie really touched home for me because I am Native American, and all Native people believe in suffering for others and all things in this life that the Creator has blessed us with. The way I was told by my elder was that the only two holidays Native people celebrate with the rest of the world are Christmas and Easter; the birth of the Creator on Christmas and His resurrection on Easter.
As an artist, I love emotional pieces that stop me dead in my tracks and in this movie I had to stop and take pictures to wood burn.
What is the significance of Easter for you as an incarcerated person?
For me, Easter helps me remember my life growing up with my family free on the outside and full of joy.