State Penitentiary Explored
in Mixed Media Photography Exhibit April 8-18, 2005
County Community College (MCCC) at ARTWORKS’ Gallery is pleased
to present “Thou Art…, Will Give…,”
a show of new work by photographer and book artist Eric T. Kunsman.
The show will run from April 8 to 18, 2005, with an opening reception
on Friday, April 8, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. MCCC at ARTWORKS is located
on Stockton Street, Trenton, directly across from the NJ Division
of Motor Vehicles.
Will Give… is a mixed media installation. Breathtaking
photographs, taken by Kunsman at Philadelphia’s Eastern State
Penitentiary during the past three years, have been combined with
text from the penitentiary’s warden logbooks from the 1800s.
The photographs evoke the presence of the desperate prisoners so
descriptively portrayed in the logs.
State Penitentiary was unbelievably harsh during its ‘solitary
confinement era’ in the 1800s,” says Kunsman. “Reading
the warden’s logs from that period is a very emotional experience.
He wrote often, and very graphically, about so many prisoners who
had, in his words, ‘…not much hope.’” Kunsman
also found himself intrigued by the complex relationship between
punishment and altruism that inspired the creation and management
of the penitentiary. “The penitentiary was established by
Quakers, who believed that lawbreakers should be kept isolated in
individual cells where they could ‘…truly repent and
learn the ways of God…while looking into the eye of God.’”
State Penitentiary, though in ruins, is operated as a museum and
has become a major tourist attraction in Philadelphia. “In
those ruins you can still feel a presence similar to what the prisoners
themselves must have felt in the 1800s. You actually experience
the sense of loneliness, hopelessness and search for religion that
must have driven so many of the spirits trapped within its walls,”
says Kunsman. By including reproductions of several penitentiary
manuscripts from the 1800s, Kunsman hopes to provide a historical
context for viewers, but the real focal points of the exhibit are
sure to be the prisoner’s own words and the penitentiary’s
environment as captured in Kunsman’s luminous, mysterious
Eric T. Kunsman is
a photographer and book artist based in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. He
is an assistant professor and coordinator of the photography program at
Mercer County Community College. A former instructor at Rochester Institute
of Technology, Kunsman is presently an MFA candidate in Book Arts/Printmaking
at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He also holds an MS in
Electronic Publishing/Graphic Arts Publishing, a BS in Biomedical Photography,
and BFA in Fine Art photography, all from the Rochester Institute of Technology
in Rochester, New York.
gallery is open Wednesday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m., and evenings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 6:30 to 9 p.m.
For more information contact Tricia Fagan at 609-586-4800, ext. 3588.
Visual Arts programs