Pat Mahoney spent the last 40 years coming inside San Quentin to mentor incarcerated artists on the finer points of art; however, he’s best known as a keen listener and caring person.
Mahoney is one of the founders of the San Quentin Arts in Corrections program, sponsored by the William James Association. He retired from the Arts in Corrections program last February.
Mahoney helped create the Upper Yard mural with the Helen Caldicott quote: “We are the Curators of life–We Hold it in the Palm of our Hands.”
“He’s very idiosyncratic and works in an intuitive way,” said Carol Newborg, Program Manager of the William James Association. “His art is inspired by aboriginal themes. It’s holistic — mind, body and earth, very untraditional.”
Several inmate artists gave their comments regarding Mahoney’s impact on them professionally and personally:
“What I noticed besides his artistic talents was his interest to the guys,” said Anthony “Sonny” Ramirez who is in his 20th year of incarceration.
Ramirez has been at San Quentin for around eight years and in the Arts in Corrections program for seven years.
“Guys would start off talking about their art, and then the conversation of the inmate would switch over to someone in his family, like his wife or daughter. What I noticed is that he had the ability to pay attention. I think one of his greatest assets was his willingness and ability to listen.”
Ramirez continued, “Pat likes to portray figures seen on the walls of caves and canyons. Not too many people see them unless they are archaeologists, and they search for that kind of art — those tiny figures are enjoyable to see.”
Lamavis Comundoiwilla has been involved in the Arts in Corrections program since he arrived at San Quentin about 18 months ago. He has been incarcerated 24 years.
“Because of Pat, I start creating my own style of paint- ing,” Comundoiwilla said. “I have a unique form of pointillism, cubism, surrealism and impressionism that are merged together. I learned how to do that from what Pat taught me.”
Jeffrey Isom has been at San Quentin for about a year. He got right into Arts in Corrections and credits Mahoney for improving his art.
“Pat inspires me because he’s very patient when he works with someone,” Isom said. “You can see the love from all of his students. He make me feel accepted. When he teaches, he encourages at the same time.”
Mark Stanley-Bey, has been in the Arts in Corrections eight years. He’s been incarcerated 35 years.
“Pat Mahoney’s character and experience in the art field only increased my ability to express my point of view by using art as my medium, and his instruction has been welcomed and honestly appreciated,” Stanley-Bey said. “The Arts in Corrections program brought to me an opportunity to express the beauty of art and to give back to the community—a sense of purpose and peace through art.”
Mahoney continues to be involved in the art community through his painting, drawing and working with family.