I have lived in the neighborhood just outside the walls of Eastern State Penitentiary for over twenty years. In its current condition this place is mysterious and beautiful, but I have often wondered what it looked like during all of the different eras when it served as an active penitentiary.
I began planning these sculptures by studying historic photographs, written descriptions and oral histories by the people who remember this institution. Some of my questions about life at Eastern State could not be answered, so I made conjectures based on the clothing, furniture, and routines common at the time. Through this work I hope to offer a glimpse of the emotional experiences and mundane routines of daily life within the walls of this prison – and to find a shared humanity with the men and women who resided here.
Installed in Eastern State Penitentiary from 2007-2012. Carved wood, metal, mixed media, paint. Susan Hagen copyright 2007