In conjunction with a series of city-wide events and the Eugene Operas production of Dead Man Walking, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
displays Corvallis-based artist Julie Greens The Last Supper, a selection of some 500 porcelain painted plates that illustrate the final meal requests of U.S. death row inmates. The exhibition is on view March 1 April 7, 2013 in the Artist Project Space Gallery.
I have always been focused on food, says Green. As a kid, I won eating contests; these days I grow organic produce. The years I spent in Oklahoma, which has the highest per capita rate of executions, turned my interest in food toward final meals.
To create The Last Supper Green paints images and words relating to inmates last meals on second-hand ceramic plates, using a blue mineral paint. The plates are then kiln fired by Greens technical advisor Toni Acock. The subject matter varies greatly as the final meal requests reflect the particular states regulations and the heritage of the inmates. Green discovered that many states, Texas included, limit inmates to what is available in the prison cafeteria.
Jolly Ranchers, birthday cake, and regional favorites like fried crappie from Arkansas or crab cakes from Delaware are featured in the series. Lobster and steak are exceptions with more familiar, comfort foods like hamburgers, biscuits, and milkshakes being more popular requests.
Green doesn't include the names of the executed death row inmates; she only identifies the plates by the execution date and last meal.
Green says that when she paints the plates, she thinks about "the death penalty, the victims, the heinous crimes committed, the individuals executed, the large number of minorities on death row and the margin for error in judicial process."
She notes that America is one of the few countries with capital punishment and that there have been a total of 1,320 U.S. state-sanctioned executions since 1976. Green plans to add fifty plates a year to The Last Supper until capital punishment is abolished.
Julie Green was born in Japan in 1961. Green is a nationally renowned artist and recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painter and Sculptors Award. Herwork was featured in OSUs Terra Magazine, and the project has received national media attention in outlets as diverse as the New York Times, National Public Radio and magazines Ceramic Monthly and Gastronomica.
Her work has been included in 25 solo exhibitions in this country and abroad. An Associate Professor at Oregon State University, she lives in the Willamette Valley with her husband, artist Clay Lohmann, and their one-eyed cat. Green divides studio time between narrative painting and The Last Supper project.