Ever since the MINIONS movies US release in July 2015, people have been head over goggles, er…I mean heels…about them! NO wonder it was the 5th highest grossing film that year. WOW! They sure are adorable creatures.

Well, let me tell you, the Minion craze is hardly over.  From what I understand, a sequel is due to come out in 2020.  In the meantime, there are Minion costumes, dolls, jewelry, memes and all things Minion-esque.

So, I thought you’d enjoy these two Minion dolls created by incarcerated artist, Cuong Tran (CA). ). Meticulously hand-crafted from cardboard, paint, fabric and sewing supplies. Cuong learned how to sew from his Mom, and is a heckuva lot handier around a thread and needle than I’ll ever be (in spite of the fact that my mother was a seamstress and avante garde fashion designer.  Each doll measures approx:  10-1/2" x 8" x 5"

Here's what Cuong has to share:

"I've always dabbled in drawing my whole life. As a kid I could look at a picture and draw what I saw. After a few years however, I felt like drawing became a chore. Besides, there are a good number of artists in prison already doing the same thing I was. I wanted to push the envelope, so I started to build and sculpt figurines out of whatever materials I could find. 

I didn't have the faintest clue as to where and how to start. I fell back onto my mechanical background, constructing skeletal frames using our cardboard lunchboxes. I then applied soap over the frame, creating 'muscle and skin'. I would paint over the dried soap with some hand-me-down acrylic paints. Digging around, I was able to find some scrap materials such as old t-shirts, burrito wrappers, beads and pen barrels (just to name a few things) and turn them into accessories for my figurines. 

Things have snowballed from there.  I've become more proficient at using the materials available to me (i.e., junk) to make artwork. Over the last two and a half years of sculpting/building, I've made over 80 pieces; the major ones being a functioning carousel, a remote control go-kart with racetrack, and a scale sized Chevrolet Impala.

Art has always been very therapeutic for me. It allows me to free myself despite being physically restricted. In an environment where my every move is monitored and controlled, my ideas, my creativity and imagination are the only things that are limitless. Art is freedom. It allows me to put a part of myself onto paper or in a sculpture". - Cuong Tran (CA)

Watch out for more great hand crafted projects from Cuong! 

PS Minion Wannabees are Rafael the Raccoon –San Rafael Chamber of Commerces mascot; and last but not least, our female Calico cat, Simone.


Leslie Lakes, Director

Minions Hand-crafted by Cuong ("Mike") Tran; CA


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What Do “Cool Off Drink Aid”, condiments and Sumi Art have in Common?  

As mentioned in past blogs, many incarcerated individuals lack access to regular paint art supplies and quality art paper.  Hence, they are forced to be innovative and resourceful with what they have at hand. 

In this P.A.T.H. blog, I am delighted to share with you the work of Lian Ke that she managed to produce while serving a year’s prison time at a Santa Clara County Jail during 2017. Personally, I really love Lian’s paintings.  Aside from being creative using food materials she had at hand, what I love most are the bright saturated colors, her Sumi-style expressionistic brush strokes, and the textural quality of her work. 

For these paintings, Lian used various flavors of ‘Cool Off Drink Aid Mix’, milk, beet juice and mustard condiment as a watercolor. A pencil eraser from a short 3" pencil was employed in lieu of a paint brush .  And, as far as paper surface, Lian used the back of a 9x12 manila legal size research envelope that has the seam running down the middle, top and bottom of it. 

Since various flavors of the Drink Mix was used, her paintings are actually scented – could be any combination of Grape, Berry Punch, Raspberry, Lemonade and/or Orange).

Says, Lian: 

Painting is my PASSION, and it helps make time pass faster. I love making different media and letting the painting sometimes ‘paint’ itself by the way the paint ends up.  The drink mix is definitely a first, and then you start experimenting with milk mixtures and beet juice…and condiments!  I didn’t have a yellow until I got some mustard – it stains clothing – so I thought PERFECT! I found my yellow.

Art is definitely a path – an outlet to express (and relieve frustrations) especially when locked up (in jail/prison). My best art I think are the ones where I just paint whatever comes out of my hand without thinking. 

Some of Lian's paintings can be seen at the "UNCHAINED ARTISTS" exhibit  in Mill Valley through March 23rd.

Note:  Sumi art, ink and wash painting (and in this case – Cool Off Drink Aid painting) does not aim to simply reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its spirit.  For instance, “…to paint a horse, the artist must understand its temperament better than its muscles and bones. To paint a flower, there is no need to perfectly match its petals and colors, but it is essential to convey its liveliness and fragrance. East Asian ink wash painting may be regarded as a form of expressionistic art that captures the unseen”.



Leslie Lakes, Director

Art Titles:


Yorkshire Terrier 


Tree and Mountain


Fantasy Dragon 

Pink Mustang Horse



Appaloosa Horse



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For the Love of Horses

When most people hear of prison/inmate art, they tend to think of smoking guns and scary clowns, ghoulish specters and fanged teeth skulls, motorcycles and souped up cars, drawings of tattooed women scantily clothed (or not at all) in various sexually suggestive poses, etc.

But, what a majority of people don’t realize is that there is a whole other world to prison/inmate artwork.  A gentler side.  A side that depicts and honors nature and animals.  As you may have surmised by now, I personally love animals, and hence images of many different animals in art. And, in this instance – the horse!  

Throughout history, horses have been a favorite and common subject in art; depicting horses in military battle, hunting, transportation, rural and working life, as well as the romanticism of the American cowboy and Wild West, and the pleasure ride and hunt of the noblesse and elite.   

Why is there such a fascination for horses? Mainly because they are beautiful creatures. Their anatomical proportions are generously gorgeous, and with their flowing manes, large liquid eyes and elegant yet powerful strides, they are simply beautiful to look at. 

I hope you enjoy these few samples of equine artwork created by talented incarcerated artists.


Leslie Lakes, Director

Art credits:

Three horses pencil drawing: Anonymous

Watercolor: Sammo Whammo (TX)

Woman and Horse: Dino Bianco (CA)

Stampeding horses: pencil drawing by Clare Skjonsky (LA)

Little Bill (VA)

Jesse Simmons (VA)




With over 250,000 types, and with their amazing aquatic adaptations, fishes comprise over half of all living vertebrate species. Ranging from drab to richly vibrant in color and patterns, from docile to fiercely predatory, aside from catching them for food or sport in lakes, rivers or out at deep sea, fish continue to capture the imagination in cultureliterature and art.

Please enjoy these pen drawings, all of which are currently on display (and for sale) at the “UNCHAINED ARTISTS” exhibit at the Mill Valley Bank of Marin.

THE FISH by William Butler Yeats:

Although you hide in the ebb and flow
Of the pale tide when the moon has set,
The people of coming days will know
About the casting out of my net,
And how you have leaped times out of mind
Over the little silver cords,
And think that you were hard and unkind,
And blame you with many bitter words.


Leslie Lakes, Director

Art credits:

Koi fish; colored ink pen on Handkerchief; anonymous

All other pen drawings by Doug Dworak; San Quentin, CA



Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cedar Waxwing Bird.jpg

In one of the earliest of valentines by Geoffrey Chaucer, all the birds, the whole parliament of fowls, are gathered in the Garden of Love:

For this was on seynt Valentynes day
When every foul comyth there to chese his make

(For this was on Saint Valentine’s day
When every bird came there to choose his mate)

"By analogy, this was when human couples would, well, you know.

In truth, February 14th was actually a little early for birds to start mating in 14th century England. But Chaucer didn’t mind; nature was a mirror of Creation to be mined for its symbolism. He was writing a fable, using the “foules” to make moral and political points (the contractual engagement of Richard II and Anne had been a strictly diplomatic affair in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War). Of course, Chaucer was also basing this symbolism on the reality of springtime. This, after all, is when the birds do start to sing, pair off, and nest".

[From Bird Lore and the Valentine's Day Tradition in Chaucer's "Parlement of Foules" by Nicolai von Kreisler; The Chaucer Review, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer, 1968), pp. 60-64; Penn State University Press]

Art Credit:

Original Cedar Waxwing drawing by Dale Bruner (CO)

(20 x 16 Colored pencils on paper)

The above drawing is currently on display at the 

“UNCHAINED ARTISTS” exhibit in Mill Valley, CA 

through March 27, 2018



Unchained Artists show featured in Marin County arts magazine! 

P.A.T.H. and ArtReach make the February/March 2018 issue of the online “Marin Arts & Culture” magazine!  Woo Hoo!

“Marin Arts & Culture” online magazine was started last Spring 2017 by talented husband and wife team, Meredith Browning Griffin and Noah Griffin, and is expressly written for North Bay lovers of the arts.  The magazine brings to the public fabulous articles written by both staff and contributing writers featuring artwork by young student and emerging artists, part time artists and world famous artists. “We provide a platform for expression, no matter the art form. We highlight great arts organizations and upcoming performances, exhibits, festivals, fairs, lectures and events in Marin and Sonoma Counties with an occasional foray into surrounding counties, including San Francisco” – Meredith Griffin.

I’m delighted to share with you an article that my friend and P.A.T.H. collaborator - English artist, Nicola White wrote about death row inmate artist – Daniel Landry’s art. Some of Daniel’s artwork is currently featured and on display (and for sale) in the   “UNCHAINED ARTISTS”  exhibit (through March 27th)  at the Mill Valley branch of the Bank of Marin).

Once you log onto the Magazine, simply go to the following pages: page 3 (5th paragraph down); page 5 (Nicola White’s headshot and short bio); page 9 (#17) and the feature article on pages 17 and 18.



Leslie Lakes, Director

Note: Daniel Landry’s art images by Nicola White’s permission.  Proceeds of sales by the San Quentin Artists go towards helping prisoners to buy more art materials and a percentage is donated to charitytowards providing college scholarship funds for family members of murdered victims.

Art Images:

Cranes Coming Home

The Seeker


Seriously, Let Me Out of Here



Cosmic Love


Nicola White at UK art gallery



 Well Attended Opening Reception for Prison Art Show  

In spite of lots of people sent to bed by a virulent flu that’s been making the rounds, and an evening that spilled rain over Mill Valley, we ended up having a wildly successful turnout for the Opening Reception of “UNCHAINED ARTISTS”.  

The event took place at and was graciously hosted by the Mill Valley branch of the BANK OF MARIN.   A large delicious cheese cracker and fruit platter was generously provided by David – the owner of the local Mill Valley Market. Within two hours, that beautiful tray of nibbles was completely gobbled up.

The show will remain up through March 27th (extended an additional week by request) during normal bank business hours (10am-6pm; Monday through Friday). There is art (as well as hand crafted items) in various mediums, styles, sizes and subject matter (both framed and unframed)  to suit most tastes, not to mention most reasonably priced to fit your budget.

Both Nicola White of ArtReach and myself (P.A.T.H.) invite you to explore and enjoy this special collaborative exhibit. If you have any questions and/or wish to request a private docent tour, please ask.


Leslie Lakes, Director

Photos legend:

Nicola White of ArtReach 

"Marbled Marilyn" by Alex Nold

Guests enjoying artwork

Original pen stipple drawings by Keith Loker
(San Quentin Death Row) Top: “Lilies”; Bottom "Crushed Life" 

Coffee and acrylic painting by Ely Legerdemain: A Pensive Alfred Hitchcock

Nicola White making a short video

Leslie Lakes ((R) and Mary Ann Maggiore (L)



Ode to Sergio and His Homie

seven deadly sins by Sergio.jpg

Things aren’t always what they seem to be.  We're usually so quick to judge.  Sometimes, we really need to delve a little deeper and take into consideration the context and circumstances of what we see and experience in order to come to a clearer truer picture of the reality of a person and/or situation.

Take this fantastic allegorical drawing by Sergio for instance.  Yes…It’s powerful and commanding. I personally love not only the artist’s drawing skill set, but the compelling composition and tattoo detail, as well as the artist’s  decision to add color in just a few appropriate places (the red sunglasses lenses and the brown eye of the woman behind the man…representing the insidious and dangerous clutches of the seductive nature of Seven Deadly Sins.  

At first glance, one might jump to the conclusion that this drawing promotes, upholds and encourages violence and sin.  But, once you turn to the back of the drawing…..go ahead and read what the artist wrote.  It changes the entire picture, both literally and figuratively.

Signed and inscribed on back of the drawing board:

Cindy, this was my Homie
“Seven Sins”
“Rest in Peace”
Kids looking for power and knowledge
Read the Bible
“Don’t  - Join – A – Gang”
Love From An Angel Tears


Leslie Lakes, DirectorP.A.T.H.

Art title:  “SEVEN SINS”
Medium: Graphite and ink on artist board
20 x 15 inches



Ben and Dean

Benjamin Lewis, Jr. (a talented incarcerated artist whose colored pencils drawing - "She Sings Blessings to the Iron House" -  that was installed and on exhibit at Alcatraz this past May-June) has been fostering Dean.  Dean as you can see is a handsome specimen of a white male Labrador Retriever that Ben has been taking care of in the canine foster care program at the prison.  Ben says of Dean: "He's a smart and loving dog".

While Ben is sad knowing that Dean will soon be leaving his foster care to become someone's permanent canine assistant, Ben says that ..."I love the fact he'll be helping someone who is handicapped".

I sincerely wish that more prisons (all prisons) around the country would institute programs like this!  In the meantime, I happened to come across the following poem by Diane Morgan, and while the circumstances are slightly different, it aptly describes the special relationship between dog and incarcerated foster dog caretaker:

“I am the bridge
between what was and what can be
I am the pathway to a new life.

I am made of mush,
because my heart melted when I saw you,
matted, sore, limping, depressed,
lonely, unwanted,  afraid to love.
For one little time you are mine.
I will feed you with my own hand.
I will love you with my whole heart.
I will make you whole.
I am made of steel,
because when the time comes
when you are well and sleek,
when your eyes shine,
and your tail wags with joy
then comes the hard part.
I will let you go,
not without a tear,
but without a regret,
for you are safe forever,
a new dog needs me now”

– author - Diane Morgan



Artwork Image attached:  "She Sings Blessings To the Iron House" by Benjamin Lewis, Jr.

Photo of Ben and Dean at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, CA



When a Kitten Inspires an Inmate Not to Give Up

Pencil Drawing of Little Door Stop by John VanTielen December 2017-IMG_20171222_0001 - Copy.jpg

The end of October, John VanTielen (an artist friend who is currently incarcerated at a State Prison in Chillicothe, Ohio) wrote to tell me that he had discovered three little kittens hanging out around the shop area where he works. John and several other prison inmates working in the shop did their best to keep a watchful on the three kittens and their Mama cat named Tig. 

Below is a touching chronology of John's messages to me: 

"This week the three little kittens have begun to explore their surroundings. They are so cute as they exercise their little lungs. It's so funny to watch them try to walk around. One of them already purrs when you hold her and pet her".

Another week passed, and John wrote to break some sad news: 

"I just wanted to give you an update on the kittens. Unfortunately one of the three kittens had an accident. It got caught in the door to the parts room and kind of got crushed. At first we thought he broke his back, but his spine is okay. Still, he can't move his back legs. That was two days ago. But I saw him move his one paw a little bit. Today he was dragging himself around playing with the other kittens. He's eating good and doesn't seem to be in pain. He just has no use of his rear legs. Tomorrow I'm going to try and build him some wheels on a frame that will have a harness to go around him so that he doesn't have to drag himself around. I'll keep you updated. In the meantime, I decided to (affectionately) name him Door Stop”.

A week later:

"He continues to fight and survive and seems to be improving in his condition.  I guess your right that he needs to see a vet, but that's not going to happen. So we will just have to see just how much better he will get. I just put the sketch I promised you of little Door Stop in today's mail". 

And, the last communication I received from John about 10 days later:

"I do have some sad news about little Door Stop. Last week it appears that one of the C.O.'s who did his night rounds in the shop must have seen him and took him. He more than likely killed him. I sadly say this because they (the C.O's) cannot just take them (the kittens) out of here. But more than that, a lot of them in here are just down right cruel. Door Stop's other two brothers and mama cat Tig were left.  Since we are moving to another building we had to put the other two little ones and Tig on the other side of the fence on the compound to fend for themselves. I have only seen the kittens once, but Mama Tig I see almost every day".


Pencil drawing of little Door Stop by John VanTielen (December 2017)




Upon first hearing about my plans for P.A.T.H.’s Holiday Fundraising Event (which took place on November 16th) and desire to funnel a percentage of the proceeds to help the victims from the recent tragic Sonoma, Napa and Yuba Counties massive fires that decimated thousands of properties and where precious lives were lost…. Mr. Andrew Valencia (an inmate at Avenal, CA State Prison) spearheaded and galvanized no less than 18 other men also incarcerated there to donate their exquisitely handcrafted beaded jewelry and art.  I was blown away by the generosity of heart (and talent) by these artistic men. 

Numerous drawings and a total of 42 pieces of jewelry: individual necklaces, bracelets, earrings (including complete sets), wristbands and dream catchers, etc. came pouring in the mail.  Aside from their donations, the men also shared their personal “Bios”.  While I don’t have room to share all their “Bios”, please take the time to read comments by both Mr. Valencia and Mr. Rey Aguilar in the pictorial slide show attached. While personal background stories differ, reasons to want to give back are mutually expressed. 

P.A.T.H. wishes to thank the following men for their humanitarian service and artistic talent:

Reynaldo Aguilar; Anthony Alejos; Daniel Ascencio; Emilio Brotherton; Steve Cruz; ; Nicholas Garcia; Robert Guzman; Omar Jacuinde; AndresMaciel; Johnny Mason; Galvan Monte; Danny Niaca; Marcos Ramirez; Steven Reed; Carlos Rivas; Edgardo M. Ruiz; Art Sanchez; Ronald Sanchez; Andrew Valencia


Leslie Lakes, Director



P.A.T.H. Holiday Fundraiser THANKS YOU!

So sorry for those who missed this special fundraising event, as you missed a good time and opportunity to win some amazing prizes.

And, for all those who did venture out to attend  P.A.T.H.’s Holiday Fundraising Event, which took place at the Mill Valley Community Center on November 16th, I wish to give a  heartfelt “Thank You”!  In spite of inclement weather, other possibly competing events that same evening, not to mention so many folks who were home sick in bed with the flu… as one guest commented: Your event was absolutely beautiful, perfectly planned and exquisitely executed".

Regardless, those who came out to support the cause enjoyed themselves.  Even Rafael the Raccoon (San Rafael Chamber of Commerce’s adorable plushie mascot) made a special  appearance. Check him out. Ha!  Ha!

A special "THANK YOU" shout out to Midori Roseberry, Odette Boyd, Terry Bremer, Chana Fitton, Steve Cuvin, Keith A. Harward and my husband, Bill Lakes for their assistance and support.  Special thanks to Mill Valley musician,Matt Lacques and vocalist, Kaye Rodden who donated their wonderful brand of live entertainment. 

No less than 30 fabulous gift basket prizes were made available for raffle purposes.  The event also featured a myriad of artwork, as well as an array of beautifully handcrafted/hand-beaded jewelry specifically created and donated by 17 incarcerated artists from the Avenal State Prison in California in their effort to help raise funds for the fire victims. God bless them!

And, last but not least, A HUGE "THANK YOU" to all the local businesses that so graciously and generously donated Gift Certificates and/or products for raffle, food and entertainment for this event: 



Leslie Lakes, Director


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April 7th, 2016 was an historic day and cause for major celebration for my friend and former sailor, Mr. Keith A. Harward.  Because, on that day he was read the writ of actual innocence by the VA. Supreme Court and released from prison to go home the following day! Keith’s freedom was due in large part by the assistance of the team at the INNOCENCE PROJECT and the SKADDEN LAW FIRM in NYC.  They took on his case and won! 

Tragically, he was wrongly imprisoned for 33 years for the 1982 slaying of a Newport News, VA man and the rape of his wife…based on the testimony of bite mark evidence.

On November 4th, I received an email from Keith as he was about to get ready for a fancy dress up dinner party in London, UK!  Keith has been traveling the U.S. and Europe (currently NYC; London and Newcastle, England; Amsterdam and Italy) with the INNOCENCE PROJECT to speak to Criminal Defense Attorneys, and forensic scientists and dentists about the large margin for error in, as well as advocating for abolishing using dental bite marks as evidence and testimony in criminal trials.

What can I say?  Keith has come a long way from his days and years of incarceration and is in for a ride!  God bless Keith, the INNOCENCE PROJECT and SCADDEN Law Firm!

Leslie Lakes, Director


Keith A. Harward in NYC and Ground Zero Memorial

Keith A. Harward Speaking to Dentists re: Bite Mark Evidence

Keith A. Harward in London, UK

Keith A. Harward in Newcastle, UK

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Wishing you a Happy Halloween and Dios de La Muerte.  While the holidays fall around the very same time of year (Dios de la Muerte starts 10/30 through 11/2 and Halloween traditionally falls on 10/31 with Halloween Eve the night before)...the historical and cultural background for these holidays differ.

Dios de la Muerte is a Mexican multi-day holiday which focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

Halloween is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31st the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (those “hallowed”), martyrs and the faithful departed. 

The multi-colored handcrafted mini skulls (measuring approx. 3” x 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”) are made by prison artists and are fashioned out a special “clay mix” using bread and other common materials.  Each are unique and hand-painted. While the finished product is durable and strong, they can still break if dropped.  Personally, I just love them!

Hope you enjoy the related artwork


Leslie Lakes, Director

Description of images:
Dios de la Muerte mini skull handcrafted sculptures by Various Inmate ArtistsHappy Halloween/Dios de la Muerte color pen drawing 9x12 by Adam Flores
Dios de la Muerte pastel and ink drawing 9-3/4 x 12 by Uvaldo Nevarez

Day of the Dead color pen drawing 8x10-1/2 by Rogelio Guillen





Black pen drawing by Robert Lopez.jpg

This beautiful portrait (it makes me smile every time I look at it. So joyous; full of life, beauty and nature) was created by artist Robert Lopez who is currently incarcerated at the Calipatria State Prison in California.   

The original drawing measures 9”x12” and was created using black pen on Bristol paper.

The artist specifically requested that the monies raised from the sale of this piece of art go directly to benefit the Betty Jo McNeece Shelter Home in El Centro, California.  And, that’s exactly what it did!  This is just another among many ways that incarcerated artists are giving back to their communities …through their art!

The Betty Jo McNeece Shelter is responsible for a number of Group homes which serve as residential care homes that assist many types of people. This includes those with drug and alcohol problems who need residential assistance. Group homes also assist other abused or neglected youths, developmentally disabled, those with chronic mental issues, youths with criminal histories, etc.


Leslie Lakes, Director



Homage to J. D. Lewis - Cheetah


This beautiful (somewhat haunting)  portrait of a Cheetah was created by incarcerated artist - Jeremy J. Hammill; FL.   Mr. Hammill specifically created it in his own inimitable style (influenced by Salvador Dali’s surrealism)  as a way of paying homage to wildlife artist, J.D. Lewis old creations.  The original drawing is 9”x12” and was created using pen, ink and graphite on Canson paper.

I contacted Mr. J.D. Lewis with whom I shared Jeremy’s drawing.  Writes Mr. Lewis:

“Thanks for reaching out and your wonderful compliments about my portrait of a Cheetah/art/website.  And, of course, I appreciate Jeremy’s choosing my painting as a way to pay homage to my old creations.  Unfortunately, I am no longer producing wildlife art but AFB  (American Foundation for the Blind) has been fabulous in trying to put me and my website on the map.  My most popular print and note card is the ‘BLIND SPOTS’ print! Far outselling my wildlife about 30 to 1.  I never dreamt it would become so popular”.

You see, Mr. Lewis lost nearly 95% of his eyesight and believes that blindness has served as a catalyst for positive change, thus greatly enriching his life.  He admits that adjusting to blindness was not an easy journey, but nowadays, he feels more at peace and much more empowered through acceptance, learning alternative techniques, such as Braille, typing and computer screen reading software.

Thank you Jeremy!  Thank you Mr. Lewis!  God bless you both! 

P.S. To learn a little about these magnificent big cats, click on “Cheetah”

Enjoy and blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Director



AZTLAN REALISM: Art from Pelican Bay S.H.U.

AZTLAN REALISM: Chicano Revolutionary Art From Pelican Bay S.H.U.  by Jose H. Villarreal 

“Aztlan” refers to the homeland of the ancient Aztec civilization and came out of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in a concerted effort to reclaim a spirit of “self” national identity. This same spirit was expressed through the Mexican muralist art movement with such celebrated artists such as Diego RiveraDavid Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.

I first “met” Jose H. Villarreal in September 2014 after I had put out a “Call to Incarcerated Artists” for a special themed art exhibit I was planning to organize, curate and install at Alcatraz.  Jose was one of many men incarcerated in S.H.U. at Pelican Bay State Prison who responded.   Just a year prior to Jose contacting me, he had been involved with the the California Prisoner Hunger Strike to bring attention to the torture of, and to abolish long term S.H.U. (Security Housing Unit, which is basically solitary confinement. A small window-less cell with no contact with other human beings with the exception of the guards and prison staff).  Solitary confinement is a form of torture, and has nothing to do with so called “rehabilitation”…let’s make no mistake about it!

Released from prison the beginning of this year, Jose had been imprisoned for 16 years  - 10 of which were in S.H.U. at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA

“My life has been hard, but it was all a priceless education that I used and continue to use as I move forward in helping those just like me. There were times I struggled with many thoughts that came via my torture, even health issues. The thought of having a medical emergency and no one there to help was terrifying, but I knew deeply the causes of my torture. I read of others being tortured, not just in the U.S., but globally so this gave me strength to know I had a lot of company even though I was physically alone”.

“My studies, writing and art gave me a reason to wake up every morning. A reason to exist and to keep struggling mentally against the offense waged against me (both physically and psychologically) because of my beliefs. My studies allowed my mind to keep working and to fight against mental illness, which is precisely what S.H.U. induces”.

Jose’s book is a compilation of 200 drawings as a record of his S.H.,U. experiences:

“I wanted to show that even within a torture center like the S.H.U. that human beings can rise above any man-made abuse or injustice. That the human condition is good even in the presence of malice, or even death. That art surfaces even when dehumanization becomes the norm”.

Hence, I invite you to check out his book of drawings. They are uniquely Jose’s style of what I would call a combination of Chicano, folk and outsider art.  Each drawing has a story and carries a message...of hope, courage, resilience; a strong voice to tear away the veil and expose the truth.

Copies of his book may be purchased

$50 +$4 S&H = $54 to:


P.O. Box 4186

San Jose, CA 95150

Any questions, please feel free to contact me at 


Leslie Lakes, Director





I just returned home from San Quentin State Prison where I visited a super talented, jazz musician friend of mine named Lee.   We first met several years ago while I was volunteering for a business entrepreneurial program called THE LAST MILE in the same prison – a program which Lee had participated in at the time. I do my best to coordinate a visit with Lee at least once every three months and just wanted to share with you my experiences doing so.

While one can schedule an appt via a CDCR online program, I prefer to simply show up as a “walk-in”.  I usually arrive at the prison by 7:30am with my thermos of hot coffee, a book or magazine, my cell phone, car keys and a transparent gallon size plastic freezer bag in which I have my driver’s license, two $10 rolls of quarters for the vending machines; two single dollar bills to purchase a “ducat” which is the currency to purchase a photo once inside the visiting room.  Only the freezer bag contents are allowed inside; all other items are stored in a locker.

Visitors who have made appts up until 10am are allowed to be processed first. The, the “walk-ins like myself form a queue. But until such time, we all either stand or sit on hard wooden benches that line a long cement outdoor building at the East Gate area.   It’s a busy place with much anticipation and eagerness to enter and not be turned away (due to a possible lock-down situation, or for lack of proper ID or improper clothing attire.  Women greet each other and talk excitedly; women with children keep the little ones occupied, and the men who visit smile quietly and listen to the women talk.

The acrylic painting titled “ANTICIPATION”, which was recently on display at Alcatraz under the auspices of the WILLIAM JAMES ASSOCIATION was created by San Quentin inmate artist, Gerald Morgan.  It’s a piece of art that so aptly conveys the emotional experience of the visitation waiting area.

I’m convinced that most people have a misconception of what it’s like to visit inside a prison …at least at San Quentin.  Once inside, I am always struck by a profound sense of joy of family. It’s a happy place for the time of the visit. There is so much genuine caring, love, respect for others, courtesy, laughter, sharing, sense of community , patience, playing of board games (I love Scrabble), holding of hands, stolen kisses, conversations and catching up…all until 2:30pm when visitors are asked to leave and those who are within the CDCR system line up to be processed back into the mainline. The time passes so quickly, too. Until the next visit. 


Leslie, Director




P.A.T.H. recently became an official member of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and I'm so excited about it.   The very first "Mixer" I attended, I met a lovely man- Eldon Takeda (an Independent LegalShield/IDShield Associate).  Eldon was carrying around with him this adorable rascally raccoon plushie that I originally thought belonged to Eldon.  But, as it turns out Raphael the Raccoon is none other than the Chamber's unique conversation piece and "sure to break the ice when it comes to conversation" mascot. Lucky Raphael gets to spend two weeks with a different member of the SRCOC.  So, guess who Raphael chose to go home with?  That's right! Me!

Check out the pics as Raphael makes the rounds with me during the course of my running non-profit errands: from the Bank of Marin (Raphie got to meet Bank Branch Manager, Kerry Tusup); to the Post Office on East Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley; at my home computer desk where he made friends with our cat, Simone; to the San Francisco courthouse; hanging out in style with me, my husband and artist friend -

Isiah Daniels at the Mill Valley Depot Café (check out Isiah’s artwork here); admiring an original raccoon drawing by formerly incarcerated artist, Joseph Owens...and even a special trip to the island of Alcatraz!  

I will sorely miss Raphael when I have to pass him along to the next SRCOC member.

Enjoy! And, blessings,

Leslie, Director

Photo captions: 

Admiring a raccoon pen drawing by Joseph Owen

Artist, Isiah Daniels in front of his artwork at Alcatraz

On the Alcatraz Cruises Ferry

With National Parks Service Ranger, Eric Stearns and Leslie

At the Mill Valley Bank of Marin with Bank Manager, Kerry Tusup

At the Mill Valley Post Office

At the San Francisco Courthouse

At the Mill Valley Depot Cafe with Bill (L) and artist, Isiah Daniels (R)

Raphie making friends with our cat, Simone



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P.A.T.H. Raises $1K for E.L.M

It is with great pleasure and honor for me to announce that P.A.T.H. recently made a gift to  E.L.M. (Enriching Lives Through Music) of $1K.    This was made possible via P.A.T.H.’s fundraising efforts from the February 1- May 30th, 2017 ANIMALIA  MUSICALE : A Chorus of Critters exhibit that took place in the Redwood Foyer of the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, CA. 

This special fundraising event for E.L.M. would not have been possible without the assistance of the amazing Marin Center staff, in particular: Gabriella Calicchio, Charlie Barboni, Libby Garrison, Ellen Campbell and Wendy Goldberg. Thank you for appreciating and having faith in the artwork, and for providing this prestigious venue for the Spring 2017 season when (and where) so many other worthwhile cultural, music and theatrical events took place.  

Some E.L.M. highlights:

ELM was recently selected to receive a $30K grant from Carnegie Hall's Play USA. ELM joins this network that supports organizations across the country that offer instrumental music education programs to low-income and underserved K–12 students. This grant will fund E.L.M.’s new brass and wind instrument program for students at Venetia Valley School in San Rafael.

One of ELM's 8th grade violinists (see pics) was chosen to participate in the National Take A Stand Festival in LA.

Nine ELM students attended Cazadero Music Camp on full scholarships. 

Click here to watch a video of the E.L.M Limoncito Spring Concert (May 20, 2016), which took place at the Mt. Tam United Methodist Church in Mill Valley with renowned conductor of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra -  Juan Felipe Molano conducting.


Leslie Lakes, P.A.T.H. Director

Photos captions:

E.L.M. new wind instrument students

E.L.M. new wind instrument students

E.L.M. string instrument students

Juan Felipe Molano conducts E.L.M. orchestra at Mt. Tam United Methodist Church

E.L.M. 8th grade violinist (far left) at National Take a Stand Festival

E.L.M. Ukelele music students

E.L.M. music students perform at Marin IJ Lobby Lounge

Young E.L.M. music student

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