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Review: prison and mental health in States of Incarceration and Mutual Support 

Works at Ogden and Gallery X

click to enlarge nick_cave_as_is_shreveport--g.jpg

The ground level annex of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art suggests either a wide tunnel or a narrow basement. Its rugged, subway station aura works well for gritty subjects, and few subjects are grittier than prisons. States of Incarceration was produced by the Humanities Action Lab consortium of 20 universities, including the University of New Orleans's Midlo Center. America jails more people than any other nation, and Louisiana jails more than any other state. This exhibition illustrates how colonialism, slavery and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans forced to relocate to reservations presaged the shift from slave plantations to prison plantations, as well as the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans in labor camps with convicts and captured combatants during World War II. The UNO segment focuses on Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola's early 20th-century, slavery-like, "convict lease" system. An online story project features UNO students' postcard exchanges with current Angola inmates. Also on view are some haunting portraits and masks by local students at Travis Hill youth detention center created under the direction of maestros like local street art avatar Brandan Odums.

  Shamanic, or "primitive," cultures knew that visual art and music could heal fractured souls and sundered societies. Gallery X's Mutual Support expo explores leading art-world shaman Nick Cave's eight-month project with Shreveport residents including collaborative bead sculptures that represent the fabric of their lives and other works featured in Evan Falbaum's As Is documentary (pictured). A quilt by Rachel Wallis extends the fabric metaphor to Chicago's victims of violence, while Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's portraits of her mother depict her soulful persona in ways that transcend her bipolar disorder. Saul Robbins' photographs document local clinical and spiritual healing spaces, but his adjacent rear gallery, consulting room "installation" is actually a free pop-up wellness center staffed by professionals and open to the public on Saturdays.

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