Art contains hidden treasures. For some, this treasure is the use of their art as the raft to navigate the deep, raging rivers of their past in the quest for internal healing and reconciliation.
Jeffrey A. Isom is uniquely willing to open up and share such hidden treasures and expose his vulnerability.
Isom, 58, creates art for a number of reasons. One is for his own therapy as it helps him to express his feelings and to vent his frustrations, anger and emotions.
Isom considers art to be a major part of his rehabilitation.
For him, it is a way to honor those he has impacted through his crimes, as well as society. Isom is a repeat offender who received three strikes and was sentenced to life in prison.
Another important reason why he does art is because he sees it as a potential vocation upon his eventual parole. He envisions himself as the owner of his own art shop someday.
Through art he is able to appreciate the positive impact of his craft on others whom have viewed his paintings during various events at the Lower Yard here at San Quen-tin. He is grateful for the peace of mind that comes from contributing to a good cause.
The artist has a job assignment assisting the “Mirror Crew” at SQ’s Arts in Correction — an art hobby shop run through the sponsorship of the Williams James Association.
“Through Arts in Correction I have worked with many artists whom are incarcerated as myself. We all get along and appreciate, not only our talents, but the opportunity to show the world that people do change,” said Isom.
His craft has allowed him to connect with professional artists from the outside community, many of whom volunteer their time and talents inside the prison, teaching and encouraging the incarcerated artists.
Isom feels it is a privilege to help others by teaching new techniques to younger generations. This allows him to create positive relationships in an otherwise stressful environment. The camaraderie at the shop helps everyone share and learn the gift of creativity by socializing in a healthy and peaceful way.
These experiences have given the artist the space to heal in a way that will prepare him for the future upon his release.
One of his creations — one of his “babies,” as he calls them — is a classic Ford truck that he painted in blue against a background of fall foliage. He calls the piece Return to Nature, reflecting on the climate change that the world s witnessing, caused in part by the burning of oil and gas, which are on their way out as more sustainable-energy sources are prioritized in many places.
According to the artist, his father sent him a picture of his neighbor’s old and rusty truck and asked him if he could make a painting of it. He obliged his father’s wishes, which gave rise to the beauti-ful painting many enjoy today.
He also paints birds, such as eagles and storks, because they are endangered. His motivation for such creativity comes at a time that we should all appreciate nature given the havoc climate change is causing around the world. He makes paintings like these in hopes that people will appreciate the value of birds, so that we won’t lose them forever.
Isom is currently working on numerous paintings. One symbolically speaks out against Asian hate. It is like a yin and yang story that depicts, in the background, Western figures of hate on one side, and on the other, Asian figures of blessings.
The main figure in the foreground of the painting is an Asian woman who represents an object of hate but also a figure of love and beauty: the yin and the yang.
He was moved to create this piece when, during the pandemic, his art instructor’s father was murdered in San Francisco because he was Asian. He is working especially hard on this painting in honor of all Asian people who have been impacted by racism.
“I want to bring awareness of such tragedies and to spread the message of love,” Isom said. “Someone’s race should not be a crime or a reason to be murdered.”