b. March 7th, 1957
2020 Grinnell Prize
Oil on board
10 1/4 x 8 in. (26.04 x 20.32 cm)
North America, United States, Iowa, Grinnell
The 2020 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize, Alexander McLean, Justice Defenders
"The organization Justice Defenders does a wide range of innovative human rights work in prisons in both Uganda and Kenya. What struck me as especially brilliant about Justice Defenders are their efforts to provide legal education to people on both sides of the bars, training both inmates and prison officers as paralegals and lawyers. Prisons are often a wasteland of humanity, dehumanizing both to the prisoners and to the people who are their keepers. What could be more empowering than a deep understanding of the complex system that you function in?
In this painting I wanted to show the transformation of the waste land of prison into a garden of knowledge. A blossoming. There are still bars, but they begin to get obliterated with the vines of inquiry extending, and the flowers pushing upward from the bottom of the painting. The hands reach out to each other from either side of the bars that divide them, and unite them.
The painting is also populated by a group of butterflies and moths taking flight and moving upward. Symbols of transformation- what was once an egg, a caterpillar, a pupa, becomes a thing of beauty, capable of flight—and a reminder to stay in motion, to keep becoming."
Go to the Grinnell Prize paintings: https://www.grinnell.edu/about/grinnellprize/symposium/2011