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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 3, 2007

Photo: Painting by Richard Duarte from "Inside, Outside," an installation by 10 artist/teenagers in the Columbus, Ohio, CAPA Youth Arts Program

Exhibition At UI Museum Of Art Looks At Lives Of Incarcerated Mothers

The traveling public art installation "Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States" will be on view in the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) from Aug. 4 to Sept. 23.

On tour to college campuses around the United States through 2009, "Interrupted Life" looks at the challenges and triumphs of women struggling to maintain relationships with their families while paying their debts to society.

The UIMA will present a panel discussion of issues raised by the exhibition at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13.

"'Interrupted Life' is a powerful exhibition that promises to open up a dialog within the community about incarceration, motherhood, welfare and class," says Rachel Williams, a UI professor of art education. "It is an emotional experience and promises to evoke a mix of reactions among viewers."

Organized by Rickie Solinger, director and curator of WAKEUP/Arts in New York, the exhibition brings together eight linked installations to provide a commentary on imprisonment, the emotional impact incarceration has on families and the stigmas generated by incarceration.

Most incarcerated women, a group that comprises the fastest growing segment of the prison population, are mothers, too. The problems they encounter are manifold: Many are incarcerated more than 150 miles from their homes, making visitation especially difficult, and some risk losing their parental rights altogether.

"Interrupted Life" invites visitors to reflect on the failures of the penal system and possible remedies for the harsh realities it creates for mothers. The exhibition also sheds light on the dual punishment that occurs when mothers go to jail, in that their children are often punished just as harshly.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a compilation of hundreds of cards made by women in 38 institutions nationwide, including the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women, located in Mitchellville.

Other works in the exhibition include a piece illustrating the efforts of an incarcerated mother and her daughter to maintain a relationship during the mother's sentence; an eight-foot compendium of rules governing prison visitation; the "Real Cost of Prisons" comic book project; and a corridor of paintings by 10 teenaged artists in the Columbus, Ohio, CAPA Youth Arts Program that captures the artists' individual and collective interpretations of the impact of incarceration on mothers and their children.

"Interrupted Life" is the third traveling exhibit by WAKEUP/Arts, a nonprofit organization that aims to create exhibitions with a pedagogical element and a strong social impetus. It is made possible by support from the Ford Foundation.

Solinger, an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor at the UI during spring 2007, is a historian and a curator. Her books include "Pregnancy and Power" (2005), "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade" (1992, 2000) and "Beggars and Choosers" (2001). Solinger's exhibits are associated with the themes of her books: the race and class politics of motherhood, and reproductive politics in the United States, historically and today. Her exhibits have traveled to more than 80 campus galleries around the country since 1992.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit on the World Wide Web. Information on other UI arts events is available at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072; cell: 319-541-2846;