On Monday, July 16th from 4pm-9:30pm (when kitchen closes), the Iron Springs Public House in San Rafael will donate 10% of their total sales to P.A.T.H. as one of their selected and approved non-profit community organizations.  YIPPEE!  

 So, come on out that evening (I’ll be there!) and join us for a light and tasty dinner, drink, snack and/or dessert. They have an inexpensive kids menu and if you’re into beers, they have a really good beer selection, too!


901 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901, Phone 1-415-457-258

WHEN: 16th July 2018;  4pm-9:30pm

FAMILY FRIENDLY: YES! Even kids can enjoy the night out with their parents!

For Info, please contact: Leslie Lakes at or 973-650-7931

Thank you!  If you have any questions, just ask!


Leslie Lakes, Director


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I’m bringing back the artwork of Christopher Avitea (CA) for you to view and enjoy. Not just because Chris keeps getting better and better at his craft, but because I am so proud and thrilled to see that aside from donating his generous time and art skills to P.A.T.H.’s on-going fundraising events…he’s branched out to help other organizations, too… such as CALPIA who issued Chris a “Special Recognition Award”. Well done and well deserved, Chris! KUDOS!

CALPIA (California Prison Industry), is a self-supporting, customer-focused business that provides productive work assignments for approximately 7,000 offenders within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) institutions. 

CALPIA’s 3RD Annual Charitable Foundation Fundraiser specifically raised funds for ALONG COMES HOPE  -   a charitable foundation that helps families of children with cancer.  Along Comes Hope’s mission is to inspire HOPE and healing by keeping families together, when it matters the most.


Leslie, Director


Artwork by Christoper Avitea

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Hi, again!  There's so much going on lately, that my head is beginning to spin. Aside from continually working on all aspects of a major teddy bear themed fundraising event (to take place this early Fall with details to follow), I was busy up until this past Wednesday evening preparing material for a presentation at Woodside Probation Hall/Learning Center in San Francisco.  If you recall, we installed the inmate art exhibit there this past  March, and because it was such a big hit with the students and staff, I was asked to return to give a talk about the History of Alcatraz.

So, this past Thursday May 22nd, accompanied by Woodside math instructor - Matt Lacques, I was introduced to Social Studies/History teacher – Mr. Vincente Padilla.  Over the course of the day I accompanied Mr. Padilla  as we went from one classroom to another and I was able to provide a total of five 45 minutes presentations to various “at risk” teenage students. I’ll be honest…it was simultaneously challenging and exciting. Each group of students is vastly different from one to the next.  And even if you have a presentation agenda or syllabus in mind, one has to be open and willing to go with the flow.  

Also, I realize that not everyone is going to understand why I would spend and invest my precious time on addressing “at risk” and wayward youth.  But, I personally believe that it’s vitally important (as equally testified by current

inmate artist - Robert Lopez per a portion of Robert's recent letter to me.  From what I’m told, there is a fairly high recidivism rate in the Juvenile probation system. So, anything that I can say or do that could possibly impact even one individual’s life so that they don’t end up in prison…that would be a major blessing! 

Enjoy the few pics that were taken that day. Due to privacy reasons, no images of the students are allowed.  At lunch break, instructors Matt Lacques and David and I retired to the math room to prepare and enjoy a super large healthy salad.  

Thank you! Enjoy. Blessings!  And, Please feel free to leave any comments .

Leslie Lakes, Director


Social Studies Instructor, Vincente Padilla (L) and Leslie Lakes (R) .

Math teacher- Matthew Lacques (L) and "all around" teacher, David Malizia (R)




Most people who know me well, will tell you that I love watching films and that I have a special affinity for the Classics.  One film dated called THREE ON A MATCH seemed like a fitting title for this new PATH blog featuring three vintage handcrafted matchstick inspired objects.

These three pieces (two jewelry boxes and a working clock) are only a few of the many wonderful, truly detailed and well made handcrafted items (created in prisons) that are currently in my private collection.  I thought I'd share them with you. Hope you like them.




Vintage Inmate Handcrafted Matchstick Jewelry Boxes and Clock

Rose decorated jewelry box with original painting on inside lid measures 10-3/4" x 8-3/4" x 4-3/4"

Star of David Matchstick Jewelry Box measures 12" x 8-1/4" x 5"

Matchstick and Bird "Cuckoo" Clock measures 12" x 7" x 4"





As previously mentioned, P.A.T.H. will be sharing images of different handcrafted items created by incarcerated individuals from all over the country.  The pieces featured in this week’s blog were created by men in a giving program called “BEHIND THE WALL CREATIONS” (BTWC) at Avenal State Prison.  In fact, P.A.T.H. has decided to not only support this program, but is in the process of collaborating with them for a special teddy bear themed fundraising event to take place in the Fall.  More about that in the future! But for now, enjoy these fabulous handcrafted items.  

The Betty Boop jewelry box was created by “BTWC” Founder and Director, Inmate Bobby Rodriguez (CA).  Bobby explained to me that he made the box from rolled up newspaper, cardboard, paint and a mirror cut out. It’s so well designed. Such detail. I love it! 

Bobby also made the blue and white children's handbag. The bag was fashioned out of cut up colored paper that he folded and then covered with cellophane, and sewed all together. WOW! Check it out.

For the three name rings, Bobby told me that he made them with colored string that was twisted up and glued over separate pieces of plastic  - you know...those circular seals commonly found around the necks of  plastic bottles of lotion. 

The beaded jewelry (necklaces and bracelets) were made by different men in the “BTWC” program; fashioned from recycled beads that people didn't want and donated to “BTWC”.

I’ll definitely be sharing more about the "BTWC" program.  Currently, they are having an annual HYGIENE DRIVE and asking other inmates at the prison to donate their new unopened hygiene products, dehydrated foods and drink items to send to homeless families who are living on the streets and in temporary housing facilities. Last year, they had two Hygiene Drives each gathering over $400.00 worth of products.  So you see, with a little ingenuity and a whole lot of compassion, people can contribute back to the community and society from inside the prison walls. These are men after my own heart!  God bless them.

Until next time....Enjoy!


Leslie Lakes, Director


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On Thursday, April 12th, I accompanied math teacher, Matthew Lacques to the Woodside Juvenile Learning Center in San Francisco.  Aside from installing a curated collection of inmate artwork, vintage ephemera (including old press photos and souvenirs - all pertaining to the history of Alcatraz) in the school’s large glass enclosed display case, I also had the opportunity to provide four 45 minutes PowerPoint presentations to several separate groups of same sex students of different ages. 

The presentations revolved around 18 pieces of artwork installed throughout the Learning Center, as well as the reading of letters by some of the inmate artists themselves who desired to share and impart words of wisdom, maturity and experience to these students. These letters served not only a wake-up call, but a strong admonition and words of encouragement for these students to strive to receive and education, as well as curb their errant ways. One does NOT want to end up in prison for foolish actions! Prison is no fun and Prison limits personal freedoms.  

Yes…while a long and challenging day…it was a worthwhile and rewarding day as indicated by Mr. Lacques’ endorsement and testimonial comments below:  

“Leslie was no less than amazing getting the PATH artwork up to Woodside Learning Center inside Juvenile Hall in San Francisco. She and a friend carefully hung all the art, and she also created a display of Alcatraz memorabilia that is fascinating. Her presentations to the classes were heartfelt and the kids felt a real connection to both the artists’ stories and their immense talent. We've had lots of folks come up here to talk to the kids about what it's like in prison doing a long sentence, but the letters and poems from the artists themselves made a deep impression on the students, and the connection the art created was real.  We look forward to more visits from Leslie- she has some more guest presenters coming". 

Shortly followed by:

“Today I had a chance to do a gallery walk of the PATH artists with my younger students at Juvenile Hall in San Francisco. It was so exciting to look at true, fine art with these young folks within our school. They are limited in exposure to artwork and the Alcatraz show has so many different facets-they really had a fantastic time. Also, these artists aren't people from another time, place, or social stratosphere. These artists grew up like our kids - they speak the same language, so our kids can relate to them; thus their hearts are open to their message of hope and redemption. The display case with all the Alcatraz memorabilia was especially interesting to them. One of my students has a hard time sitting still in class and focusing, yet he spent 15 minutes asking questions about the intricate and exquisite detail of Birdman", by Richard C. Jackson. To have this kind of experience for both of us defines what they mean when they say "priceless" in regards to artwork.  Thank you Leslie!!!”

Thank you Mr. Lacques, and thank you to everyone at the Learning center, staff and security personnel alike) who made this day possible. 


Leslie Lakes, Director

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Just a couple weeks following the opening of the “Unchained Artists” show at the Mill Valley Bank of Marin, Marin County Deputy Public Defender – Carol Farrer – approached me and asked if by chance I would entertain installing some inmate artwork in the Public Defenders’ office waiting room area (Room 139) within the Marin County Civic Center. Not only honored that there would be such genuine interest, I thought that it was a terrific idea and arranged to cull some artwork from last year’s Art Escape at Alcatraz show. 

So, on Monday, April 9th, armed with twelve pieces of framed original artwork and supplies, and with the help from custodian, Tom (Tom was wonderful!), he and I set to work at hanging the show, which will remain up on display through July 13th.  What I’m thinking to do (if permission is granted) is to keep the show going for yet another three months, but change out the art images so the show stays fresh.  

Before I left their office, Public Defender, Jose H. Varela came out to meet me and shake my hand. 

See Below for Description of Images and Art Credits:

Public Defenders Office within Marin Civic Center

Custodian, Tom helping me to install art while Rafael the Raccoon (San Rafael Chamber of Commerce Mascot) looks on.

(L to R): "Mass Incarceration" by David M. Shaw and "Native Spirit" by Shane Drousche.

(L to R): “Postal Pelican” by Chris Avitea; “The Rule” (top) and “The Deal” (bottom) by Robert U. Mendoza; “Snowy White Egret” by Rudy Guerrero.

(L to R): “Pelican Passage” by Omar Avila; “Military Fort and Cannons” by Santiago Duran; “Mama’s Roses” by James E. Atomanocyzk; “She Sings Blessings to the Iron House” by Benjamin Lewis, Jr.

Deputy Public Defender, Carol Farrer rearranges bulletin board

Public Defender, Carol Farrer (L) and Public Defender, Jose H. Varela

Rafael the Raccoon - San Rafael Chamber of Commerce Mascot -  is well satisfied with the installation. Ha!  Ha!



Leslie Lakes, Director

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This week, I hope to enchant you with this delightful handmade vintage horse and unicorn created out of knotted twine hemp by an inmate at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, FL

Yep…nothing but knots!  I love how the texture of the hemp twine makes the horse sculpture/toy so pliable and easy to manipulate into all kinds of poses.   

Both the horse and unicorn measure approx.  9" x 8-1/2" x 2-1/2"

The plant produces more fiber per pound than either cotton or flax, and these fibers are easily extracted in order to make hemp rope, twine, or cord. ... Step one: Separate the hemp fibers or unwind the hemp yarn and cut into lengths approximately twice as long as the desired length of the rope.
Hemp fiber has been used extensively throughout history, with production climaxing soon after being introduced to the New World. Items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fiber. Hemp was often used to make sail canvas, and the word canvas derives from cannabis.

More interesting and unique handcrafted items to come. So, stay tuned.


Leslie Lakes, Dir.



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It's that special time of year and P.A.T.H. wants to wish you a very Happy Easter and/or Passover, whichever occasion you celebrate.

Enjoy this new drawing of a Silver Fox Hare.  It was first recognized as a breed in 1925 and was valued for its meat and fur.  The Silver Fox today is a rare hare. 


Leslie Lakes, Director

Art Credit:  "SILVER FOX HARE"; Colored Pens by Christopher C. Avitea; CA

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Ever since Matthew Lacques – accomplished musician and current math teacher at the Woodside Probation/Learning Center in San Francisco – played guitar with fellow singer/songwriter/folk musician, Dore Coller in the Band Practice Room at Alcatraz last year, Matt has been asking me to bring part of the original “ART ESCAPE AT ALCATRAZ” art exhibit to the school for these 'at risk' youth and other staff members to enjoy, as well as create educational discussions around. 

So, finally, this past Wednesday March 21st (first day of Spring), my fabulous fine art photographer friend, Barry Toranto picked me up in Mil Valley with a carload full of art and supplies, and we drove into the City to meet up with Matt at Woodside in the late afternoon after school had recessed.  We managed to install 18 pieces of artwork and on April 10th, I’ll return to fill the large glass display case with my own private collection of authentic vintage ephemera (magazine and newspaper articles dating back to the 1930’s and older; media press photos), as well as a myriad of interesting vintage souvenirs pertaining to “The Rock”.   

Also, that same day, I plan to talk to the students about the art and hope to satisfactorily answer any questions that may arise about the incarcerated artists who I write to and who generously participate in P.A.T.H. art projects and events.  More to come! So stay tuned.


Leslie Lakes, Director


Matthew Lacques and Barry Toranto

Raphael the Raccoon; SRCOC Mascot

Matt, Barry and Leslie




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)