Incarcerated for 35 years, the artist finds art itself to be his most stabilizing influence
SQNews is featuring art submissions from incarcerated men in institutions other than San Quentin. We begin with the art of Glen W. Shafer, a resident of Soledad State Prison.
“I owe my art my life,” said Shafer. “Today I am very grateful God has blessed me with this gift.”
For some, art can be a stabilizing force and a source of light in an otherwise dark environment. Shafer told SQNews that he struggled with behavioral issues in the early days of his incarceration, and art helped him stay on course.
When he was first incarcerated, Shafer considered himself to be a troublemaker who couldn’t stay out of self-created difficulties.
But during his internment at the Los Angeles County Jail, an officer noticed his artwork. The CO offered Shafer a chance to have some time out of his cell at night so that he could create murals on the facility’s walls. The budding artist accepted the opportunity.
Shafer says this is where his journey as an artist took off. “Today, 35 years later, I still go Wow! I did that?”
Shafer’s piece Angelic Presence of God depicts Paul the Apostle writing what would become scripture as he is watched over by an angel. The piece shows a scene of reflection on life, hope and redemption, for its subject, Paul, and perhaps also for the artist himself.
Shafer says that before his art took a central place in his life, “I couldn’t read or write and was dyslexic and very fearful. I had no self-worth and if you look[ed] up lacking and falling short in the dictionary you would see my picture.”
He believes that devotion to his craft has been a source of peace and self-worth. Shafer’s troubled days are behind him.
The artist wants the outside world to understand the therapeutic value of art for incarcerated people, and to know that there is an abundance of talent behind prison walls. He wants people to know that not all incarcerated people are idly wasting away as they do their time.