Arts & Entertainment

Art Center to Debut 'Maximum Security': Provocative Exhibition Considers Issues of Surveillance, Security and Mass Incarceration

Elizabeth Duffy’s artwork, “Spike Island,” 2015, quilt will be on display at the Arts Center April 17 through July 10.  Credits: Elizabeth Duffy

SUMMIT, NJ - The United States is reported to be the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years. The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is set to feature Elizabeth Duffy: Maximum Security, a show that considers perceived ideas about security and poses questions about our culture of surveillance and incarceration.

Duffy appropriates Data Protection Patterning found on the inside of security envelopes to create patterned fabric, wallpaper, and related prints. Observing a connection between prison design and traditional quilt patterns, she has created a series of quilt tops based on aerial views of prison complexes. 

These quilts combine traditional quilting materials with prison uniforms and the Data Protection Patterning fabric she has designed.
“By making works that meld homespun process with information hidden from the public sphere, I am drawing attention to our society’s increasing erosion of private space and our collective comfort in incarcerating a significant percentage of our population,” said Duffy. 

An opening reception and art afternoon will be held on April 17 from 2 - 4 p.m. for Elizabeth Duffy: Maximum Security, as well as other spring shows at the Art Center. The reception is a free event open to the public, with works on display through June 26.
Two other exhibits will also open, including Recharging the Image: Selections from the Mott-Warsh Collection, which features the artwork of nationally-recognized African-American artists who have grappled with ways of representing personal, cultural and racial identity.
All works are on loan from the Mott-Warsh Collection, a Michigan-based private collection. Judith Henry: Me as Her, will feature the photographs of Brooklyn artist Judith Henry, who explores issues of identity by staging photographs in her Brooklyn neighborhood, posing behind masks of famous women who have died.

The Art Center is hosting several exhibition related programs. On April 21 at 7 p.m., Henry will discuss her body of work Maximum Security and how she uses a traditional medium, quilts, to explore issues that are traditionally uncomfortable for our society. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for members.

On April 29, at 6:30 p.m., the Art Center will host a film screening of “Herman’s House,” an award-winning documentary which deals on a very personal level with the impact of incarceration, and the power of art to transform lives. The film tells the story of Herman Wallace, thought to be the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in the United States, describing the prisoner’s work with artist Jackie Sumell to imagine his “dream home.” Light refreshments will be served. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for members. 

Adult and children’s group tours for this and the Art Center’s other exhibitions are available throughout the year. For more information and gallery hours, visit

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