“We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.” – Pablo Picasso
Art serves as a tool for atonement, redemption, and creativity for prisoners like Donald Oliver Hooker (C-Note) who are confined behind bars. Through art, they find beauty in the ugly things around them despite their limited resources. Art serves as a symbol of redemption in prison and helps prisoners in their journey of rehabilitation.
With the power of art, a prisoner shares stories of pain, longing, need, beauty, wonder, and even divine force. The prisoner finds meaning in their own life by creating artistic and meaningful art. Through their artistic talent, they not only redeem themselves but also show their true self to the general public. Art gives them a way out of a cage where their souls are held captive. When their artwork is viewed by outside patrons, they also get a voice to express their emotions.
The dullness of the cell gives birth to famous prison artists such as C-Note, who create masterpieces through imagination and creativity. Through their paper, pen, and canvas, they not only try to correct the mistakes they made in the past but also try to heal the scars and troubles of others. Additionally, art aids prisoners to better communicate and express themselves.
By utilizing their talent, prison artists like C-Note interact with society indirectly, share their knowledge and wisdom with others, and express their feelings artistically and vocally. Because of their intellectual flexibility, artistic abilities, and creativity, numerous individuals across the globe gain new perspectives.
C-Note is a multi-faceted individual who rose to prominence because of his painting and poetic skills, and talent. After being sentenced to 35 years in prison, C-Note utilized his creative and artistic ability not only to deal with his stressful situation but also to reach out to the world outside. He came into the limelight when he appeared in two television interviews, which were part of the ongoing investigation on the Los Angeles broadcast station KCOP-TV. Later he was also invited on a television program to share his views on the gangs in Los Angeles.
He is popularly known for his work as a writer and actor in the plays such as Birth of a Salesman and Redemption in Our State of Blues. Redemption was performed at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in December 2015, in front of well-known politicians and got the attention of various activists and professionals. At the CB-1 Guest Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, his work Mprisond was exhibited, which acted as a stepping stone in his career as a prison artist. Later his work, Modern Girl, also became very popular among the audience after it was included in the art exhibition at Governor’s Island, New York City, in 2016.
Since the beginning of his career, he has raised pressing issues of society through his artistic creations. Through his art, he has depicted the numerous issues faced by African Americans and particularly the women of the society. Some of his works on women include Diana, Tears of the Mothers, Life Without the Possibility of Parole, and Today We Are Sisters.
Other than these, some of his famous works include The Untapped Potential of Prison Art, Neo Jim Crow: Black Art Movements and Its 21st Descendants, The Importance of Women in the Struggle: Emphasis on the Black Woman’s Voice, What if Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now Had Covered the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March, The Myth of Intersectionality to Women of Color, Due process in the Era of Me Too, Can’t Black Lives Matter Too???, American Negro: A Migrant Story and The Criminalization of Our American Civilization. For his various contributions to the world of art, he was listed as both America’s Most Prolific Prisoner-Artist and the World’s Most Prolific Prisoner-Artist by Google Search Engine.
In prison, not only do artists like C-Note learn new communication, discipline, and self-reflection skills, but they also get social approval through participation in the field of arts, which can aid in their rehabilitation and re-humanization process. Taking part in the creative process gives prisoners like C-Note a sense of emotional fulfillment, whether they are painting on a canvas, performing in a play, or writing a poem. It also gives them the freedom to make their own choices and decisions.