Restraint & Release
Restraint and Release is an artwork comprised of 28 different acrylic paintings on panel, each 12' x 12'. There are seven thematic "armatures" to the work, each of which has four variations, three in black and white, one in color.
Restraint and Release was conceived partly as a response to one of the serious problems in American society today, that of the dysfunctional prison system. Over 2.2 million Americans are jailed today, approximately one out of every hundred adults. This population is disproportionately composed of people of color.
This system fails to recognize prisoners as human beings, and its effect on them and their families - over 2.1 million children in the U.S. have fathers who are incarcerated - is extreme. Although we pay lip service to rehabilitation, in actuality, we provide little in the way of training for todays' prisoners that would provide for them a better future on release. Rather, our correctional system is based on coercion, and punishment.
The results? Within five years of being paroled, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners are rearrested. It is little wonder, with poor work skills further eroded by long sentences inside our prisons, that the recidivism rate is so high.
There are organizations, both within the prison system and without it, that advocate for change, or provide an environment where the incarcerated can grow the skills that they need to help them escape from this endless treadmill of crime and jail time. One such is the Prison University Project. The project has for 20 years run a fully-accredited college inside of San Quentin, a California state prison located north of San Francisco. Its goals are simple:
We aim to provide excellent higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison; to create a replicable model for such programs; and to stimulate public awareness and meaningful dialogue about higher education and criminal justice in California.
It's my hope that viewing Restraint and Release online will help further awareness of our incarceration problems, and that viewers will get involved in an effort to reform our policies for the better.
Owen Brown was educated at Yale College and at the California College of the Arts. He is married, with three children. He has exhibited widely in the United States, and has been collected both in this country, in Europe, and in Asia.
For many years resident in San Francisco, Owen recently moved to Minneapolis. His current projects include, in addition to painting, a video program with SETI.org (the Search for Extraterrestial Intelligence) concerning the Earth's atmosphere, and a series of prints, to be published by San Francisco's Arion Press, on the poetry of San Francisco's Emily Wolahan.