On May 12th, 2006
Damien Echolsí artwork will be premiered at San Franciscoís 111
Minna Gallery. Dubbing the show ďSkeleton KeyĒ, Damien Echols has
taken part in helping with the production of his own event to
raise funds for his defense.
event includes music, speaking, and poetry readings by punk legend
Henry Rollins, veteran rocker Jonathan Richman, former Misfits
front man Michale Graves, Penelope Houston of The Avengers, Jacob
Pitts of Comedy Centralís Strangers With Candy, former San
Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. Jello Biafra is tentatively
The gallery showing
starts at 12:00 PM. The reception will start at 6:00 PM and end at
2:00 AM. Pieces by artists of international fame: Winston Smith,
Shepard Fairey, Jayne County and Jonathan Richman are just a few
of the exhibitís many surprises. Local DJs Marco Vega and DJ Evil
Justin will spin tunes between sets. Donations will be accepted at
the door. Visit 111minnagallery.com or call 415.974.1719 for more
Having no physical
evidence, three teenagers were pinpointed, harassed and accused of
murdering and mutilating three 8-year-old boys. June 3, 2006
marks the 13-year anniversary Damien Echols was arrested along
with Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin dubbing them the West
Memphis Three. Damien Echols sits on death row, Jason Baldwin was
sentenced to life without parole, and Misskelley got life plus
forty. For more information about the case on these three innocent
young men visit http://www.wm3.org.
AV: Damien I know
you are limited with space and materials. Where do you create
DE: All of the artwork
is made here in my cell, where I am twenty-four hours a day for
the most part. Iím usually sitting balanced on the edge of my bunk
hunched over whatever Iím working on, which is balanced on my
AV: You are
working on a couple of collage pieces with your wife Lorri, what
has this done for your relationship?
DE: I feel like the
pieces that Lorri (my wife) and I are working on together are just
the beginning. Iíve always wanted to work on projects with her,
but there was never time. Between work and working on the case,
there just never was time or energy to spare. Weíre both really
enjoying it, and we talk about it a great deal Ė the feel certain
pieces give us, the current that runs through it, etc. This could
very well be something we continue to do together for the rest of
AV: How would you
describe your art? How do you create your collages and paintings?
DE: I believe the
artwork could be described in many different ways, on many
different levels. The collages, for exampleÖI could say that
theyíre a bunch of things that I found and glued together, but
thereís more to it than that. Iím constantly on the lookout for
things that resonate with my own energy, or the energy Iím feeling
at a particular time. The whole point of the collage is to catch a
split second of a subtle, living, dynamic current and make that
split second concrete. If you do it successfully, then the viewer
will catch at least a small glimmer of where you were at when it
came together. The human psyche is filled with constantly shifting
seams, which hold the fabric of ďmeĒ together. A collage is an
interpretation of one of those seams, in the same way that you
could try to describe the color of a sound.
The paintings are a
little harder to articulate, and require a little back-story. In
the 1500ís there was a man named John Dee who was the court
astrologer to both Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. He had a
partner named Edward Kelly who acted as a sort of visionary medium
for him in the experiments they conducted. Through their own
spiritual and psychological exploration they realized that reality
is like an onion Ė one layer wrapped around the next Ė and that it
was possible to peel each layer aside and peek at the one beneath.
The more wisdom a person acquires through spiritual growth, the
more layers of reality they would be able to peel back and
understand. These levels were labeled ďaethyrsĒ, and there are
thirty in all. Each aethyr has a sort of guardian angel that
embodies the wisdom and energy that is to be found on that
particular level. The aethyrs are outside of us, theyíre what make
up the universe, as we know it Ė but they are also inside of us.
Theyíre the different levels of our own psyche or ďsoulĒ. At any
rate almost all of my paintings representations of the guardian
angels of different levels of reality.
AV: What kind of
relief, if any do you get from creating art?
DE: The relief I get
from creating art is being able to express enthusiasm. It allows
me to physically manifest intellectual and emotional currents that
develop and grow inside of me. Itís a way of being able to show
someone what love looks like, or sadness, or anything else.
AV: How do you
acquire your art materials? Do you have paintbrushes? If not,
then please tell us what you use.
DE: My materials are
acquired from different places. Sometimes itís a pile of old
magazines and a disposable razor, other times itís paints ordered
from a prison-approved catalog. When I paint I donít like to use a
brush, I prefer Q-tips cotton swabs. I donít plan on doing any
more paintings; itís out of my system now. The paintings displayed
at the show will be the last, I believe. Iíll keep going for a
short while longer with the collages, but eventually Iíll exhaust
them and move on to something else.
AV: How do you feel
about your premiere art show in San Francisco?
DE: I am tremendously
excited about the art show in San Francisco, almost as excited as
If I were going to be there in person. Iíve been participating in
all the planning and such, and there arenít many things ďout
thereĒ which I get to have a hand in, so this is a pretty big deal
for me. Iím hoping that the people who get to see it enjoy
themselves even half as much as Iíve enjoyed working on it.
AV: What tools do
you have access to creating your artwork? Where does the paper
come from? Do you have canvas? If not, then please tell us what
DE: I donít have many
tools when it comes to making an art project. I pick up bits and
pieces where I can. Iíve traded comic books for a canvas, food for
paint, an old AM/FM Walkman for a pad of art paper. Sometimes Iíve
just painted on cardboard. I had to use Q-tips at first, because I
had no brushes. Then, after I got brushes, I never used them
because I had gotten used to using Q-tips.
AV: How are you
able to cut each individual piece you place on your collage paper?
Does the prison provide you any tools? If so, what are they?
DE: The only thing the
prison ever gave me was a disposable razor to shave with Ė and
thatís what I use to cut out pieces for a collage. My fingertips
were shredded for a month or so, until I started to develop
calluses. It takes a great deal of practice. Just pick up a
razor blade and try to cut out some small detail of a photo, and
you realize itís a lot harder than it sounds. Iíve actually ruined
pieces because my fingers bled on the paper, or I ended up getting
blood on whatever image I was cutting out. It makes you become
even more proud of and attached to the ones you manage to put
AV: With your
drawings and paintings what tools do you use for these?
DE: I have two
pencils, which I draw with, and I use them sparingly, because
there are no more once theyíre gone. I use a lot of saliva when I
draw. I donít like clean lines in a drawing, so I lick my thumbs
and use the wetness to smudge and smear the graphite. I like to
cover the entire space with that smudgy grayness.
AV: What does your
art mean to you?
DE: Whatever art form
Iím working at Ė painting, collage, sketching Ė the process is
almost like automatic writing for me. I completely disappear and
the project becomes what it wants to be. Hours will pass before I
realize it. When itís over I can barely hold my eyes open, and my
neck and back will be sore for a couple days afterwards. I
absolutely cannot rest until the piece is complete, it wonít let
me. It refuses to let me walk away until it comes out how it wants
to come out. If art is not sentient, then thereís no point wasting
time with it. I look at artwork as an energy current made visible.