CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati woman said she was wrongly convicted for murder, now she's inspiring other women in prison to speak their own truth through a new art exhibit at the Freedom Center.
Now out on parole, Tyra Patterson said the mass incarceration of women has increased by 750% since 1980. She opened a competition where women who were or are currently incarcerated from all over the country could send in paintings representing their experience. The theme is uniforms.
“I will draw women and accentuate that, the beauty of them,” Patterson said. “No matter where we were."
Patterson said art was her therapy during her 23 years behind bars. Now she's giving others a chance to express themselves.
“A lot of people don't realize that women are being locked up because our responses to abuse and trauma have been criminalized,” Patterson said.
In a painting done by Denver, a woman serving time in a Colorado prison, she painted on top of two paper bags taped together using coffee. She used her hair to make a paint brush.
Women like Tywana Davis, who is currently serving time at the Ohio Reformatory, submitted her own painting.
The painting reads, "Branded with a number, a label and a uniform, we struggle with knowing our true identity."
Patterson said the clothes you wear in prison, and how you keep them clean, tell a dehumanizing story.
"You're wearing somebody else's, like mine was passed down from 20 to 30 years ago, and they don't give you new clothes,” Patterson said. "We were literally make like three tampons out of one pad that was sufficient for somebody not to mess up their clothing. Enough is enough. Enough is enough."
In Davis’ painting, words like useless, lazy and dumb surround the butterfly representing the beautiful creation women are meant to be.
It's this kind of art Patterson is using to help these women remember their value.
“It wants you to believe that you're not worthy,” Patterson said. "Women are enough, you know? Whether they have made a mistake or not, whether they are guilty or innocent. Women are enough."
The selected winners will be announced on May 1. Those women will be paid for their pieces. The virtual art show will be held on May 25 on social media. The art pieces will also be featured at the Freedom Center.