But my favorite beach painting is the one Gary did of our children not long before he was imprisoned. He spent a lot of time getting the sky the way he wanted it while he seemed to get the kids right away.
JB: What did art "do" for Gary, in the old days, pre-prison? What did he get out of it?
JW: Gary has always been artistic and creative, but it was not something widely known. Professionally, he was a small business owner (restaurants and retail then marketing and consulting), and he served as an elected official. Art was part of his private life while he spent so much of his time in the public eye. It gave him a sense of beauty and accomplishment and I believe it gave him a sense of connection with his now-deceased father, who had a talent for drawing.
Gary began focusing more on painting and drawing because of Stephanie, though. He always enjoyed the kids and found ways to spend special time with them, despite the demands of a very busy life. As they were growing up, Gary took Jonathan hunting and fishing, and they shot skeet and sporting clays together. As Stephanie became more interested in art, Gary found the opportunity to share a gift with her, and they painted together. Not that those were the only special times shared with the kids, as Gary was always sharing and encouraging them. What we have all lost because of his absence while imprisoned is inexpressible and irrecoverable.
JB: I hear you. How about now, Judy? What role has his art played since Gary's been incarcerated?
JW: Art and faith have helped Gary maintain some level of sanity and worth. He isn't vain by any means but he knows he has a gift and his work is good. Many of his pieces embody happy memories, people, places and animals he has found connection with. Gary's art is the expression of the freedom of his heart and mind. Gary escapes every day to happy, heart-warming places and always - always - loves and is loved.
Gary knows he is innocent and has been wrongfully imprisoned all this time, but even more so now, when Gary should have been released immediately upon enactment of the First Step Act of 2018 in December. The BOP continues to hold him - unlawfully - and while they try to control everything, they can never put his heart in chains or put bars around his mind. It's truly maddening that they just cannot or will not comply with federal law. Prison itself is maddening for everyone affected. Rather than give up, Gary paints, and we work for his release and plan for the future. Some day soon, once he is home, we hope to have an exhibition of Gary's work. But what he has talked most about is just being home, reunited with our family and Dixie, our sole surviving dog, trying to get healthy, and catch up on all the changes that have taken place in the time we have lost.
JB: Thanks so much for this glimpse into a side of Gary we haven't heard much about, up until now. It was a pleasure to talk with you, Judy. I hope by the next time we chat, Gary is already home and busy catching up with his old life.
JW: Thank you, as always, for your interest and encouragement, Joan.
*The Judy White series, in its entirety:
The Feds and the Prisoner's Wife - Do Unto Others... as You Please October 27, 2010
Judy White's Giving Thanks for Prison Visit: It's All Relative November 29, 2010
No Heat in the Cooler: More Tales from Edgefield Federal Prison December 16, 2010