Wednesday, December 14, 2011

San Quentin Prison Camouflage

Inmates in striped prison suits (not at San Quentin)

From Dean Jennings, "Inside San Quentin Prison: Factory for Forgotten Men" in The Rotarian (August 1948), p. 16—

"When [US] Army officers were searching for camouflage artists [during World War II], they came to San Quentin [State Prison in California] on a routine visit. Strolling around the prison hospital, the administration headquarters, and other buildings on the huge reservation, they noticed hundreds of beautiful murals on the walls. There were paintings of all the great railroad trains in history; there were life-size works illustrating Bible stories. There were ships, planes, landscapes, buildings—covering every available inch of bare wall space.

'That's wonderful stuff!' one of the officers exclaimed. 'How big is your staff of artists?'

[Warden Clifton] Duffy grinned. 'I haven't any staff. Every one of those murals was done by one man. He wanted to give this place some beauty, even though he knew he could never take his work off the walls.'

The officer nodded thoughtfully. 'We need men with that kind of guts,' he said. 'We'll take him.'

So Roy Colyar, a great artist behind walls, went over to an Army post on special parole, using his brush for camouflage work—so that other men might live. Colyar is still in the service, and his fine record has earned him a full parole effective this year."