On November 3rd 2016, artist Leonor Anthony joined the forces of the Student Alliance for Prison Reform group at FIU in an awe inspiring, question rising demonstration aimed at shedding light on the issue of mass incarceration in the United States.
In the weeks prior to the event, Anthony worked hand in hand with group President Elimelesh Risse to develop the best way to bring light to a situation many of FIU’s students were unaware of. After flyers were made, date was set and lawn space at FIU’s main campus was confirmed Anthony got to work. Her contribution to the event was not only her art, but her passion, which fueled an idea. Inspired by the Netflix documentary 13th, Anthony created an installation of five mannequins dressed in orange prison jumpsuits. On each mannequin Anthony wrote our a word or phrase, such as “slave,” from the documentary. As she created the installation, on of Anthony’s main doubts was whether or not to paint the white mannequins different colors, representing the different races and ethnicities that are affected by the issue of mass incarceration. After much thinking, she opted not to and decided again that she wanted to show them as being stripped of their humanity. To achieve this Anthony strapped a black cloth around their face, hiding the mannequins identity and dehumanizing it.
On the day of the event, the mannequins were dissembled and stuffed into Anthony’s car limb by limb. When arriving at FIU, people watched as Anthony and her intern began to set up the display. Anthony added the final touch, a pair of handcuffs and the event began. It didn’t take long for people to notice the bright orange jumpsuits and by the first few minutes, a flood of FIU’s st udents and faculty crowded around to witness two women who came together to raise awareness and start a movem ent. There were many different reactions to the installation, some of appreciation and gratitude and others of confusion. Nonetheless, the installation caused students from all different races, religions and political affiliations to come together and speak about the issue. Through out the day, students continued to ask their questions and share their thoughts. With cell phones in hand, they captured pictures and went live on social media platforms as they became inspired and felt the need to spread the word about what was going on at FIU’s gc lawn.
As the clouds began to roll in and rain began to fall, students slowly stopped coming by. The final group of students, holding political posters and dressed in attire supporting their candidate decided to join Anthony and the Student Alliance for Prison Reform Group at FIU under a tent, where they continued to discuss and share opinions on mass incarceration.