Good Morning Donny.

Good Morning

Donny I know this is a big question but can you say something in a broad way
about your life?

Well, I'm 48 and I've been in prison since I was 18 and in solitary for over 25 years.
They call it life imprisonment but I call it death by imprisonment. A slow death. I can't
describe it but there is one man who did - Elie Visel who survived Auschwitz. He was
there when the inmates were forced to watch the hanging of a young boy. The kid
wasn't heavy enough for the weight of his body to break his neck so he died by
strangling... slowly. Behind him Visel heard a man saying 'where is god now' and he
thought, 'he's here hanging on this gibbet'. If you asked that question at Pelican Bay I
would say look in any cell.

You've also said that part of the suffering of prison is immense sensory
deprivation. No windows, no natural light, colorless walls. How is this related to
your painting?

What color does for my senses is beyond description. I come alive in red and blue. I see
heaven in yellow and orange. I grow roots in the richness of green. Black is like an
exclamation point that dives into the heart of the rainbow. With art I've thwarted the
effects of sensory deprivation. I feel I've discovered the sacred secret of color, like the
archetypes of myth, color can be tapped into by anyone to become a pathway to the spirit.

That's very powerful Donny.

Is there anything else you'd like to add before we stop?

Well, yes. One of the hardest things about prison life is the near impossibility of feeling
connection to the outside world - of being useful to other people. I can't earn money and
even if I could I can't donate it. All I can be is a ward of the state. This is infantilizing for me
and very costly for the tax payer but I am allowed to make presents of my work to
friends and these friends sometimes sell a few pieces though i'm not allowed to tell
them what to do with the paintings or with the proceeds. I hear though that they give the
money to a registered charity The Pelican Bay Prison Project. The project works to do a lot
of things but the one that I care about most has to do with helping children of parents in
prison. Kids like that have a very high risk of going to prison themselves I know because
I was one and it makes me feel wonderful that even in this extremely indirect way what
I do is helping to prevent that.

Thank you for speaking with us Donny.

Thank you.