Harvey Ford: Objects of Beautyness



Harvey Ford was a prolific producer of drawings when he was in the art program at Joliet’s Stateville Penitentiary, but he also made some impressive sculptures, mostly ceramic, and at least a few papier-mâché. The colors and shapes are more than a match for the intensity of his drawings, many of which he made with burnt matches.

Although prison art programs produce a lot of material that is of little interest beyond the cellblock walls, the Stateville program, as its output makes evident, encouraged artists to follow their own creative direction. Ford was a true visionary and a case study in the potential of institutions to unlock amazing creative talent.

“You never quit looking. You sit there, look at a blank piece of paper, take a photo of your mind and wait for your hands” to go to work, he told me in 1992.

The result, he explained, is “something in a different dimension.

“…Anybody can draw a straight line. But you got to bring it to life, to make the straight line do something different…. You got to put yourself into that picture. If you don’t, you got what everyone else does, a plain old flat picture.”

See the sculpture gallery below, and some drawings below that. For more information on Ford and Stateville, see my pieces on prison art from 1998 and 1994.

Some some of those not-flat pictures:

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