Artist, Activist Tony Papa to Highlight Cruel Drug War with Art Installation at Criminal Justice Conference at John Jay College in NYC on August 9-10

Press Release August 6, 2007
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Tony Newman at 646-335-5385

Noted artist, activist and author Anthony Papa will highlight the casualties of the war on drugs in an art installation during a conference titled “On the Edge: Transgression and the Dangerous Other on August 9 and 10 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice located at 899 10th Ave. in New York City. The conference will involve presentations, art and photographic exhibits, music, spoken word performances and film screenings centered around the concept of a new criminology for the 21st century.

“The Drug War” is an art installation by artist/activist Anthony Papa. The installation is a multi-media presentation that visually portrays some of the most compelling drug war issues in the news. The visual narratives in the installation are powerful reminders of the raging war on drugs that ravages many of our communities. “The use of art as a political weapon is not new,” says Papa who discovered his political awareness through his art and has used his art as a vehicle to fight the drug war. “Through history, the role of the artist as a social commentator has been invaluable.”

“Like Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and Goya’s ‘Third of May,’ which both powerfully portrayed the atrocities of war, my installation follows their lead in revealing the impact of America’s drug war.

Papa spent 12 years in prison for a first time non-violent drug offense. While imprisoned, he discovered his artistic talent. In 1995, after a showing of his art at the Whitney Museum, his case attracted national attention. Two years later, New York Governor George Pataki granted Papa executive clemency. Papa currently works for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The installation highlights issues that affect all Americans, whether they use drugs or not. It is steeped in a continuous motif of an upside down American flag, which signifies the universal concept of the state of distress in war.

“Justice in Black and White” shows the racial imbalance of the effects of the New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Ninety-four percent of those incarcerated under the laws are black and Latino. Ten crying babies dress in prison garb dangle in front of their incarcerated mothers and ask “where are our mothers?”

“Two Years in Jail for One Joint” shows the madness of the drug war. Mitchell Lawrence, an 18-year-old was sentenced to two years in jail for one joint by an over zealous prosecutor in Massachusetts. A single golden joint sits in a silver jewelry box surrounded by dozens of candles

“Give Them All Dirty Needles and Let Them Die” – taken from the cruel quote of TV’s “Judge Judy” – boldly illustrates how New Jersey is the only U.S. state that lacks a needle exchange program. Dozens of bloodied syringes penetrate a coffin draped with the New Jersey flag.

In “Cops or Docs” a marijuana plant asks the question who should decide what medicine we should put in our bodies.

“Got a Cold? Prove it and Sign the Log” portrays the hoops Americans must now jump through to buy cold medicine due to the federal government’s desire to monitor our everyday actions in the name of the curbing the methamphetamine “epidemic.” Papa hopes the installation raises awareness for those in mainstream society who rarely think about the drug war.

“I use my art as a means of visually translating the deep emotional responses of the human condition,” Papa said. “My life choices forced me to discover my hidden artistic talent.”

For more conference info:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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