You never know what you’re going to find at an auction, or where it’ll take your imagination.
The Bremond Fall Festival and Church Bazaar always features an auction, and we try never to miss it. True, we usually come home afterward having paid too much for silly things, mostly foodstuffs that would’ve cost far less at a grocery store, but occasionally we come across some treasures.
This wooden jewelry box with inlays was handmade by an inmate in Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola Prison–aka The Farm, the largest maximum security prison in America.
This is a beautiful piece of work regardless of who created it, but when we discovered an inmate made it, we had to have it. A piece with a history is always appealing because it’s interesting, different. Because Angola is a maximum security prison, I wonder about the man who made this, what he did to land himself at The Farm, and how someone with such patience and talent could do anything awful enough to be sentenced there. Perhaps if he’d exhibited that amount of patience and talent long ago, he wouldn’t be there now.
After MSB won the bid, the lady who donated it for the auction told us she’d bought it for $60 at the Angola Prison Rodeo, which is also an annual event. Every year, the warden challenges inmate artists to design a poster to advertise the event. The posters are terrific works of art themselves. This one is my favorite, from 2007:
The artistry and craftsmanship of the inmates’ works bring out a series of “what if” questions and turn this writer’s brain toward the plot of a new story. My mind wanders, plans, designs. Who would my main character be? A guilty man, like in Dead Man Walking, or an innocent, as inThe Shawshank Redemption? Would I want a story where the prison is reformed, likeBrubaker, or would I aim for an inmate-hero story instead, likeThe Hurricane?
What I know, since I’m a Christian and write Christian novels, is that my MC would come to the Lord–probably through his art, since I find it so fascinating. But from the salvation scene, where would I go? Prison release? A depiction of life in prison? Death row?
I also know that I wouldn’t want to glamorize or romanticize prison life or the crime that landed my MC there. But what would my MC be guilty of? Can I depict some of the awful things that happen in real life, or would I prefer a soft-soap white-collar crime? So much to consider . . .
And to think, all this daydreaming and speculation came from a handcrafted jewelry box.