Sentence Worn , produced as a collaboration between Mary Heinen Glover and Tirtza Even, and designed by Ivan Martinez, is a 3-D Animation/Video installation illustrating Mary Heinen-Glover’s account of the impact of imprisonment on her body, after spending close to 27 years locked in Michigan State prisons. The installation comprises of a set of short vignettes presented simultaneously on individual screens within a gallery setting. In them specific recalled scenes are recounted through their detailed visual and visceral impressions: the light, the touch, the heat, the movement, the colors comprising Mary’s personal and embodied experience. The story, that is, focuses on the physical imprint of incarceration and of reentry: the sentence as worn–and worn out–by Mary’s body over time. Among the topics we explore in the installation are Mary’s coping with a damaged sexual identity resulting in part from having entered prison a young woman in her early twenties, undergoing recurring events of sexual abuse while in prison, and leaving it menopaused and middle aged. Also recorded is the story of Mary’s health deterioration due to years of impoverished resources and conditions of living, and specifically her struggle with Asbestosis after having been exposed daily to contaminated structures in Florence Crane women’s facility in Coldwater, MI. Documented video images are molded within a constructed 3-D stage-sets which visually invoke the intersection between the body and the prison setting. Thus, the constructed sets constitute sites of disease, of violence; of oppression, isolation, and exclusion. Images evoke (or create settings for) sensations such as a chronic ache in the knees and back resulting from living within the hard surfaces of cement and tile; or the relentless assault of a bright white beam light, reflecting a life constant surveillance, and compounded with its inverse, the dark, shadowy corners of out of way places, staff offices, backroom closets piled with mops, brooms and discarded furniture, where rape and sexual assault takes place.
The symmetry and equal distribution of roles in our collaboration secures a real exchange of knowledge, experience and insight. For both of us this has hence become an incredible personal and artistic journey. It provided an answer to our mutual and compatible needs: my wish to understand more fully and in more detail and depth the experience of life in prison, and Mary’s life long desire to articulate and record her experience in order to advocate policy change.