32 Cells: Origins
Noxious, 24"x24" Acrylic on birch box — Nicolet Laursen
I’m so happy to share with you some new work I recently completed. This painting will be shown at Swell Artist Collective’s 32 Cells event on August 17, 2018 at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. This is a really fun and interesting event. 32 Swell artists have been assigned an origin story about an Old Idaho Penitentiary inmate. This is my second year participating.
I was assigned Arthur Arey, who was arrested with James McCarthy in 1896 for a series of violent armed robberies. Within two weeks after their arrest at the Canyon County Jail, they managed to escape. They made it to La Grande, Oregon before they were recaptured and sent to the Old Idaho Penitentiary to serve a 10 year sentence. During Arey’s 10 year sentence he was involved in many fights and spent over 130 days in solitary confinement.
Arthur Arey wrote many letters in prison. Arey’s handwritten letters paint a picture of an educated man who had mastered the art of manipulation. Arey’s penmanship is beautiful and his thoughts are well articulated, which seems a contradiction to his violent history. In March of 1903, Arey wrote a letter to the warden asking if he could have the “Flower Job”, claiming to have experience in this field. Arey’s interest in the “Flower Job” was the foundation of my painting. I chose to paint a flower that is both beautiful and destructive, Bindweed.
Along the edges of my painting, I illustrated Arey’s origin story. There wasn’t a ton of information about Arey’s history. We know that he was from Woodland, California, worked as a firefighter and had turned to a life of crime and violence. On the right edge of the painting the roots of the Bindweed to wrap around the word “Woodland”. If you follow the vine to the left edge you’ll find some of the items Arey had stolen from a man named H.D. Blatchey in 1896.