Stories Behind BarsPrison HospitalityCells 2WhitewashWhose Immortal Soul?Layer Upon LayerGastrolithsPterodactyl HazeInsurgentsDenied
Tona Wilson
The white-on-black “walls” series includes both small gouache paintings on black paper and wall-scale oil-stick works on black-gessoed canvas. The first of the series of small gouache paintings, Whitewash, is my response to the lyrics to a song by Berthold Brecht, Song of the Whitewash: “… Look, there’s another unpleasant stain on the wall…. So it’s whitewash we need… to keep things covered up until a later date…. “ In my day job as a court interpreter, I was seeing a lot of the “ugly cracks” hidden from the public, and the image intrigued me. I paint the bare bones (sometimes literally) of walls, in gouache on black paper, which I then cover with my own white gouache and watercolor “whitewash.”

Ialso “build” much larger walls of overlapping figures, and of their absence, using oil stick to outline paper masks and stencils that I tape temporarily to the canvas. I have also worked using paper silhouettes and wheat paste, pasting them directly to a large outdoor wall.

My work as an interpreter has also influenced my work in more direct ways. Many of my paintings and silkscreen prints include images from my experience in courtrooms, jails and prisons. I have recently finished production of a handmade artist’s book, with an edition of fifty copies, in which I examine issues of immigration and of incarceration, telling stories of immigrants and their experiences with the US criminal justice system.