For the past year, the Thursday Prison Art Project class has had the opportunity to learn from artist, Amy M. Ho.
Ho, 30, comes from Chicago and studied art in the Bay Area. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley in Art Practice and a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Mills College.
She now works on large-scale video instillation projects. Through her work, she hopes to create an experience for the viewer. “You don’t have to be an art critic to get my work,” she says. “We all understand space, and my work showcases how your mind and body understand the world.”
Ho has helped the men in the art class work on dioramas, which are scaled down models of the spaces people occupy everyday. She says her time at San Quentin has helped her learn more about people and to shed any preconceptions she may have held before working with the men inside the walls. “People have huge potential, and we should not give up on them,” Ho says.
She says she believes after working with the men in San Quentin that we are all different individuals, but in some ways, we are so much the same. This lesson keeps her coming back to San Quentin on a weekly basis.
“I see people approach their art in their own personal way, and this has helped me have a new outlook on my own art,” she says, adding she cannot help but be influenced by the art and the artist she meets at San Quentin.
She said art is amazing and can have such a huge impact on people’s lives. It has the ability to take us out of the moment we are living in and transport us to some space out of time, where we can let go of our problems and be focused just on art alone.
Ho is helping some of the men in blue create mandalas, which is the Tibetan practice of creating pictures with words written in design, a form of meditation. The mandalas are contemporary in nature because they are saved after they are completed instead of the traditional practice of destroying them, she said.
In March, Ho missed a few classes because she had to go to New York City, where she was showing some of her work in the Scope Art Fair. The Chandra Cerrito Contemporary Gallery in Oakland represents her and is responsible for her work being in the fair.
In January, Ho will start an art fellowship at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, where she will be working in front of the public.
She says this is a unique experience for her, because she has never before worked in front of an audience. She said she looks forward to this new opportunity and to the places her art takes her.
“Art has the power to transcend who we are as people. Art is the universal language that everyone has the ability to understand,” she says.