Lunch Art: The "Basic Necessities" Exhibit

I teach classes at a boxing gym and I’m always searching for something new—and hard—to add to a 90-minute workout. That’s how I first heard Coss Marte’s amazing and inspirational story. You owe it to yourself to hear him tell it himself in this TEDxTalk, or better still, read his book. In the meantime, I can give you this 30-second version: 

CM was a really, really successful drug dealer. When he went to prison, his doctors said that his health was so poor that if he didn’t change his lifestyle he’d probably die of a heart attack. He was only twenty-four.

So he changed. He changed himself, and he’s been changing people inside and outside of the prison system since then with ConBody: a prison-based full-body workout. Whether the space you have is a gym, a hotel room, a tiny apartment, or a prison cell, CM shows you that a better body is possible if you choose to “do the time.”*

Photo credit: ConBody Kickstarter | I did this workout live in a ConBody studio. It will kick your @$$.

Photo credit: ConBody Kickstarter | I did this workout live in a ConBody studio. It will kick your @$$.

CM chose how he spent his time at Rikers, and he made the choices he could about food, too. And that’s part of the story Michelle Repiso tells in her exhibit “Basic Necessities” opening next week at The Clemente (NYC Lower East Side). In prison, “better food” choices may be pretty limited, but sometimes you can still choose making a burrito with your cellmate instead of silently eating whatever’s served in the mess hall that day.

Opening reception: September 8th 7pm-10pm | Speaking engagement with the artists Sept. 21 8pm & Sept. 22 11am | | The Clemente presents “basic necessities,” an audio/visual exhibition by Michelle Repiso that documents three individuals and their mechanisms for sustaining their humanity while incarcerated. “basic necessities” demonstrates man's need for communication and connection within our environment no matter how harsh. The show features works by Shane Ennover, Juan Howard and Coss Marte.

Once you cook your own food, you put that hard work and love into it, so that it’s different, you know? It’s totally different than going out to eat at a fast food restaurant or having your mom cook something amazing at home, you know. And that’s how we felt.
— Coss Marte, from Michelle Repiso's "Prison Burrito"

MR shows through this collection “the mechanisms [three men] employ to sustain their humanity while incarcerated.” Whenever and however we can choose to be ourselves, this is a powerful reminder of how much it matters that we do choose.

*CM also changes lives by employing formerly incarcerated people. Much, much more to say on this topic in future posts.