I am a Lithuanian citizen under a sentence of death for crimes I did not commit, as the result of an unfair trial replete with false testimony and misleading arguments. My case is currently on appeal. I am the only citizen of any European Union nation to be on U.S. federal death row. I have been in solitary confinement since March 2003.
The damage inflicted by solitary confinement cannot be undone or reversed, but a remedy for this form of torture must be provided. Albert Camus wrote that no one could imagine a more cold-blooded, premeditated murder than to hold a man in a solitary cell for years, and then on a certain date, at a certain time, take him out of that cell and kill him.
I am asking you to sign my petition, "End Solitary Confinement on Federal Death Row." A link to the petition is on my website, or you can access it directly at bit.ly/EndSolitaryFederalDP
Prior to my incarceration, I was a musician; I played in a few bands as a drummer. But, once behind bars, I had to find an alternative for my creativity, so I took up drawing and painting. I would be mentally starving without an outlet for my artistry. It is my art that keeps me grounded and sane.
It is difficult to say from where I draw my inspiration when I draw or paint. I live all day long in a 7-foot wide by 10-foot long prison cell. My window is frosted over so that, although I can tell when the sun rises and sets, I am unable to actually gaze upon these natural events. By and large, my only interaction with the outside world comes by way of a small television. Still, while my physical world is limited, my mental world has no borders or walls.
I never know from month to month what types of art supplies I will be able to obtain. Since 2015, there has been a 30% mark-up on the arts supplies available for purchase, and the prices increase each year. What I am able to purchase one time, I may not be able to purchase the next. Both the lack of materials and uncertainty affect the art I create.
Most often, the medium I employ is graphite and colored pencils because they are easiest for me to obtain, and when I paint, I use acrylics because I am not allowed to use oil-based paints. I also work in water-soluble wax pastels. When I cannot obtain canvas, I work with paper.
Every time I begin a new piece, the colors and layout are dictated by what I am experiencing at the time. I utilize both the positive and negative elements of my being, from my hopes and dreams to my pain and uncertainty. I place my mood on the tip of my pencil or brush and just let my mood flow freely, and allow it to transfer to the paper or canvas. If I had to imagine it in terms of musical genre, it would be, hands down, jazz. Mostly, my art work is simple truth, without comment, conclusions, or logic. It is like jazz – either you get it, or you don’t.
Some of my favorite artistic experiences have been the result of collaboration with other artists. I have collaborated with artists in Lithuania, Great Britain, Australia and the United States, as well as with some of my fellow prisoners.
If you are interested in seeing a broader sampling of my art as well as my collaborations with other artists and some of my music, visit my webpage www.yurikadamov.com.