Art From the Inside
Drawings by Chicano Prisoners

Chicano prisoners in jails and penitentiaries in the American Southwest produce drawings on cotton handkerchiefs which embody a unique artistic vision. Known as panos, these pocket-sized canvases depict boldly drawn montages composed of Pre-Columbian symbols, Colonial religious icons, Mexican historical figures, and images from 20th century popular culture. Panos are pictorial letters which carry messages from inmates to family and loved ones on the outside and to friends and associates within the prison system. Whether love letters, prayers or personal narratives, every pano tells a story. All kinds of writing services (even if your project's focus is on the folk art) are available at

Pano artists draw on a rich vocabulary derived from the "high" and "low" art of Mexico and the United States. Aztec warriors, the Virgin of Guadeloupe and Pancho Villa; tattooed gang members, voluptuous pinup girls and vintage low-rider cars and trucks; and clowns, teddy bears and cartoon characters ‚ all make appearances in these remarkable prison drawings. Inmate artists cover their canvases with powerful and evocative imagery that reflects a complex world view. Pano art is border art with roots in both Mexican and American culture.

Although often classified as folk art, outsider art or prison art, ART FROM THE INSIDE will present panos as a visually compelling and expressive component of contemporary Hispanic art. With 121 carefully selected works produced in Texas prisons, this exhibition will survey the form and function of panos and focus on the style and personal vision of individual artists. The pano makers' vivid iconography will be defined and the classic themes which form the core of the tradition will be documented. Finally, the exhibition will help museum visitors discover the profound dualism that permeates the Chicano artistic consciousness and understand the cultural context which pano art illuminates.

Curators: Martha Henry and Peter David Joralemon
Brochure: Illustrated essay (click for brochure)
Number of Works: 121 framed panos, photo panels, two cases of support material, and wall text
Space Required: 250 linear feet
Light Requirements: six foot candles
Security: low
Touring Dates:
Fall 2004 through 2006
Exhibition Period: six weeks or longer periods may be arranged
Exhibition Fee: $9,000. Includes shipping (one way), insurance, labels, and brochures.

Exhibition Organizer:
Martha Henry
Director of Traveling Exhibitions
New England Center for Contemporary Art

For more information, please contact Martha Henry or Paul Sorel
Martha Henry, Exhibition Organizer
Martha Henry, Inc. Fine Art
400 East 57 Street #7L, New York, NY 10022
Tel. (212) 308-2759
Fax. (212) 754-4419

Paul Sorel
Director, New England Center for Contemporary Art

P.O. Box 302, 7 Putnam Place, Brooklyn, CT 06234

New England Center for the Contemporary Arts P.O. Box 302 7 Putnam Place Brooklyn,CT 06234 Tel.