Airplanes


Airplanes made by inmates of the US Penal System.
Please Visit the Airplanes Project Here
In 2013 I received a paper airplane from one of my incarcerated correspondents. The plane itself- the folds, the textual content, the illustrations it carried- was loaded with messages, but because it came from a prisoner, the obect carried an even deeper meaning.  An object that would typically connect me to childhood and creativity had been transformed into an object represeting sadness, urgency, and permanence. That plane (and the many that followed) was a vehicle of escape and self expression for it’s creator.

As the collection grew so did the similarities between these prisoner-created objects. Each one is different than the next, however each one is immediately recognizable as an artifact from a place of incarceration.










AERONAUTIC VISUAL ART PROGRAM







Automatic Drawing Machines  





I’m really interested in object performance and animation techniques, like zoetropes or the Gilbert and George singing sculptures, so for me, the drawing machines have a few functions. Additionally, I don’t come from a film, or animation background, so I really have to rely on a combination sculpture or multiples to be able to experiment with this world.










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The potentiometer is set at zero, so when you approach the piece you can set it to whatever speed you would like to, and from a completely safe position. They are very approachable for curiosity interaction. I also chose to retain the emergency, automatic pull switch, in the pieces, as to pay homage to the former existence of the treadmill, and give another clue as to how to interact with the machine. I want my drawing machines to be recognizable as treadmills, so that that everyone is comfortable, and confident in knowing how to make them function. So the potentiometer and the stop switch are both fully functional.

As the performers make marks, they begin making animations. Lines begin to spiral, text becomes blurred, and small drawings can be strategically placed to create therapid succession of images, producing a motion illusion.


A Lifers World







When I began writing to inmates, many of the first responses came from people who had been housed in solitary confinement. Over the years, I have collected a large number of cell drawings. This work is a scale representation of one of those drawings.










Greetings From...



One of the more gratifying and heartbreaking statements that I read far to regularly is, "Your letter was the first time my name was called at mail call."
In February of 2016, I traveled to Anamosa State Prison in Iowa, toured its old facility and bought a ceramic bowl that was made in-house through one of their craft programs. I also ended up talking with their wonderful administration, who were more kind and receptive than I ever imagined a prison administration would be. Their kindness, and open thinking toward my work made Anamosa State Prison an obvious choice for a project I had long wanted to make.
Greetings From is an animation, made from 858 postcards that I letter pressed, and then custom stamped and colored. Each one, addressed to a different inmate at the Anamosa State Prison. I spread out sending each one, usually in clusters of 10-30 so that each inmate in the prison would be named in mail call, at least once.










BenjaminToddWills.com
Lawrence, Kansas