Mark Francis Time & Chance by Cassie Kinney
From the Mark Francis collection of pieces, each symbolized time and chance. Almost every artwork had a clock, or date and year that represented the time spent in prison. One of the pieces that was profound to me, was the self-portrait that showed himself in a bird cage like jail cell. The shape of the jail cell like a bird cage could symbolize feeling like a trapped bird or animal that wants to fly away to freedom. The key hole in this piece was large in proportion to the cell and it was open, unlike most of his other pieces where the keyhole was small and barred. This self-portrait showed him looking out of the cell which was also differentiated from his other works that featured other imprisoned men looking up in agony, usually with their mouths expressing pain. In this piece, the figure’s hands are tied with chains above his head, attached to the cage. Although it shows Francis as being chained and tied up, the figure is looking directly through the key hole as a way or a path to freedom. The figure in this self-portrait is not wearing striped clothing or orange jumpsuit that is characteristic of his other figures. This could represent the time of his life where he was at the intersection of time and chance. It represents that moment where he was shedding his past (clothing), and looking towards the future and new path (the open key hole.)
The second artwork that had a profound statement was the baby figure with the cast on its arm. The baby figure had many cigarette burns on his chest and stomach. This figure represented an inmate that Francis knew, whose parents burned him with cigarettes as a child. Francis found that most people in prison, were those that had a history of physical abuse, and emotional and physical neglect. The cast on the baby figure read: “MOMMIE IS SORRY BUT YOU MUST LEARN TO LISTEN!!” This statement written on the cast shows the common rhetoric of the abuser where they blame the victim.
Overall, Francis’ work expressed his prison experience as a cruel environment, where people were raped, and other forms of torture. His artwork reflected the jail cell like a barred coffin where you go to die or spend the rest of your life in a cramped space. Some works showed piles of books in people’s cells on religious and spiritual texts, law, self-help guides, which reflects inmates’ needs to find hope in a desperate situation. Because much of Francis’ work had representations of time through the clocks, he may be using the books as symbols of chance that will transcend him onto a path of knowledge, wisdom, hope, and freedom.