The cover is simple, unassuming, even inviting. You open the first page to redacted information, like classified materials seen in the military. For Eyes Only. It's a dedication page that’s been redacted. It states “For” and there’s a big blotch where a name should be. A name wiped out. The reader will never know the name that black spot belonged to. Knowledge is both a privilege and offense in this book, and so is art. Creative expression is temporary, something Big Brother gives and takes away. The warden controls your art. The warden even tells you your prison cell can only have certain forms of expression because you are dangerous if you express yourself in any other manner. Water art replaces painting. Only the artist knows what he painted. That artist’s creativity is temporary in the form of water on paper. Only seen in the artist’s mind, it cannot influence anyone with its dangerous content with which the prison warden disagrees.
This is the The Artists’ Prison, with text by Alexandra Grant and drawings by Eve Wood. Grant created an Orwellian world where creativity can be a criminal offense and art making a punishment.
Malibu Arts Journal conducted a Q&A with the artist, Eve Wood, who completed the graphics in The Artists’ Prison to find out her driving need to be a part of the book and such a dark world.
MAJ: What drove you to be a part of this particular book?
WOOD: I approached Alexandra Grant several years ago and asked her over for a studio visit. During the visit I suggested we do a collaboration and asked if this was of interest to her. She responded resoundingly saying she had a project, a book she had written, sitting in a desk drawer and perhaps I could give it a read through and see what i thought of it. The text is disarmingly dark and seductive, and given that my life at that time was also strangely unsettling, I felt an instant connection with the work.
MAJ: What made you create, in collaboration with Grant, such a dark world where art is a criminal offense?
WOOD: More and more I feel that art IS a near criminal offense, especially in light of the oppressive, censorial political climate we currently live in, so the material felt somehow necessary and vital. Artists have, historically, operated outside societal structures, which gives them the unique ability to then reflect honesty on what they see and experience. The darkness in this book feels no more or less threatening and heartbreaking than the world I see around me every day.
MAJ: How did you meet Alexandra Grant?
WOOD: I met Alexandra Grant fifteen years ago when a friend recommended her to me for a show I was curating at Cirrus Gallery.
MAJ: How did you come up with the ideas for each character, like the water artist, the blind draughtsman and the fire artist?
WOOD: Well obviously the titles she provided were a starting point, but beyond that, I tried NOT to create literal responses to the text, but more metaphorical, associative responses, so for example with The Fire Artist we see an eye on fire. It's rather self-reflexive. As a viewer you are looking at the page, just as I looked and considered Grant's words, yet the eye is looking out from the page even as it is being consumed from within
MAJ: How long did it take you to create this work?
WOOD: It took me six months to make all the drawings.
The Artists’ Prison is 157 pages of dark expression where the reader is left on the last page with a paragraph titled End Of Day. Even at the end when the reader found a brief release, the writer once again drew her audience back in again into the prison cell of creative control and punishment. The writer left her audience feeling something of a paradox or labyrinth.The maze of utterly angering rules in this prison world never stopped. The redactions never stop. Even at the end the character’s name is wiped off the page. In this world, the audience understands life is precious. You could become a blotch on the page if Big Brother so deemed.
The Artists’ Prison is available for purchase for $35 from X Artists Books here: https://www.xartistsbooks.com/books/the-artists-prison