Tyra Patterson

Tyra Patterson was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and served 23 years for crimes she did not commit. Tyra works with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center as the Community Outreach Strategist

and Paralegal. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Just Media and a grantee of the Art

For Justice Fund.

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My Story

For many of us who have been directly impacted by incarceration, art was more than therapy; it was our lifeline. It was how we directly communicated our trauma without interruption or misinterpretation. It gave us the sense of purpose that had evaded us for our entire lives up until that point. Art creation taught us to better understand ourselves and it assisted us in finding a identity beyond the prison number that was assigned to us. Art provided the level playing field that boosted our confidence and self-esteem.


In my latest piece, I chose to focus on the impact that incarceration and its intended consequences have on our mental health. A constant theme in many of my works is my use of circles. Circles carry both positive and negative connotations. They can symbolize unity and perfection. But they also embody things that are cyclical and never-ending. The ambiguity isn’t more clear in this piece. The ball and chain have long been symbols of imprisonment; weighing a person down so much, the desire to run isn’t an option. The ball in this case represents our minds and thoughts. So even after we are no longer physically incarcerated, it has a lasting impact on our minds as the circle wrapped around the prison bars and our identity as women. I purposely used dark colors in contrast with pink because prisons aren't designed for women at all. Our gender and special needs are often forgotten. 

Heavy Is The Head, 18 x 24, Acrylic
Heavy Is The Head, 18 x 24, Acrylic

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Heavy Is The Head, 18 x 24, Acrylic
Heavy Is The Head, 18 x 24, Acrylic

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Artists and artwork were photographed by Ralphoto Studio.

Would you like to display a print of Tyra's piece in your cafe, gallery, church, or other location?