San Quentin News continues to find some of the many hidden treasures within these ancient walls.
That includes artists who create based on their own style and imagination, bringing them out of the shadows of incarceration and giving life to their craft.
“After my fever broke, I found the pencils, papers, crayons and comic books my mother brought me,” said one of those men, Mark “Seishin” Cadiz. “That was the beginning of me creating my art.”
According to Cadiz, it became a world without limits. His artwork has changed and expanded over the years to include different mediums and content.
Art for him is a way to give shape to some of those things that words fall short for. He considers his process of creating to be soothing for him. “It centers me and allows me to express various aspects of myself,” said Cadiz.
According to Cadiz, being able to give some form to ideas and concepts through art is life in expression.
He witnessed a great deal of division in the prison’s communities and what the incarcerated were experiencing. Little was known outside San Quentin as the COVID-19 outbreak went out of control inside the prison grounds.
Cadiz, 56, arrived at San Quentin six months prior to the pandemic. During the outbreak at SQ. a friend of his passed away from complications of COVID-19. They both came in on the same bus to SQ. He had known him for over 15 years. They worked together and also participated in several self-help groups.
The message of his art is that we’ve all suffered from COVID-19, at San Quentin and throughout the world.
“People forget things like this because we are prisoners,” said Cadiz “But we can’t forget because we became part of history.”
In honor of everyone who was in San Quentin, he created an intense, meticulous watercolor painting depicting the virus on the frontline.
The story behind this painting is based on the collective experience of many outside and inside the prison.
The piece shows how emergency responders, doctors, and nurses were dying while people were arguing about wearing masks or being vaccinated. In contrast, it depicts what the incarcerated population was experiencing.
He submitted this piece to Apogee Journal, a non-profit organization that gives voice to the incarcerated. Apogee selected his piece and utilized it for the cover of its magazine. It was the first time his work has ever been published.
“Art has always been a way for me to express those things that words sometimes do not suffice,” said Cadiz. “Sometimes it is just a soothing, therapeutic process, and sometimes it is just an enjoyable thing.”
Cadiz had an old sweatshirt that he was going to throw away, but he repurposed it as a canvas. He thought about how people go places and purchase novelty T-shirts, so he decided to create a piece that would represent what the men in SQ experienced, as a collective, during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This piece of art is to represent each and every one of us that was here in SQ during the historic outbreak that claimed 28 lives and was a natural extension of the Apogee cover,” he said.
The front of the sweatshirt is partially covered with the virus and the number of individuals that died. The left sleeve has the word “survivor” and the other has a dharma chakra (a Buddhist symbol) on the shoulder and farther down are the hash marks representing his years of incarceration. One mark equals three years.
The entrance of San Quentin covers the back of the sweatshirt, overshadowed by a tempest in the form of a skull, storm clouds and lightning. The skull represents the coming of death through the viral outbreak.
As an artist, he does not have a particular piece that is his favorite, because his work continue to evolve. He is currently preparing to do several Buddhist-themed paintings, which will contain the Buddha, Bodhisattvas (Buddhist saints), and various aspects of the tradition.
He says that he always has new ideas that arise when it comes to his art work, but sometimes finding the time to do so is challenging due to his involvement in various programs and activities.
SQ News has done multiple art stories but what is really unique about this particular artist is how he created a sweatshirt in honor of all the people who passed away, not only inside a prison but also in the whole world.