Captive Study 1: Wiley Bridgeman, 14228 Days, 10×8′, watercolor, gouache on paper

Captive Study 3: Peter Limone, 12050 Days, 10×8′, watercolor, gouache on paper

Captive Study 5: Laurence Adams, 10942 Days, 10×8′, watercolor, gouache on paper
Captive Study 6: Ricky Jackson, 14228 Days, 8×10′, watercolor, gouache on paper

These are watercolor studies for my Captive series, a group of large format paintings that tackle the American Gulag industry and the scandal of false imprisonment. They appear to be abstractions but they are really a form of text painting; instead of letterforms or numbers, however, the paintings are an ocean of tally marks. Using one of the simplest counting systems, these markings of four verticals punctuated by a diagonal slash, I make a tabulation of the days lost by those who were falsely imprisoned. Using data from The Innocence Project, the Center for Wrongful Convictions, and the National Registry of Exonerations, I have collected the daily countdown of the falsely imprisoned. The series began with triptych of three men who were convicted of murder and spent 39 years in prison; 14,229 days based upon coercion, bias, and incompetence. Each painting is a crude diary of marking time, of hoping and losing hope, of standing still while the world carries on; punctuated by violence, bureaucratic indifference, and thwarted desire. From that beginning the series continues to grow. Unfortunately, the subject matter for these paintings is abundant—the list of wrongful convictions is tragically long.

Former firefighter Max King Cap is a writer whose work appears in the The Racial Imaginary, Tahoma Literary Review, the Threepenny Review, Ponder Review, and Hippocampus; as a visual artist he has had numerous exhibitions in Europe and the United States. He earned his MFA from the University of Chicago, his doctorate from the University of Southern California, and has taught at Columbia College Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Pitzer College. He lives in Los Angeles.