This body of work below was produced in 1995 at Sing Sing prison in
response to the dehumanizing nature of body cavity searches.
INTENT OF THE ARTIST: To give the general public a view
of the dehumanizing nature of the Body Cavity Searches
Department of Corrections Directive #4910, paper, glue, magic markers (also considered contraband)
Description of event that lead to creation of
After returning from a visit with his mother Anthony Papa was subjected to a routine strip search. However on that day a sadistic guard was assigned
to search him. In a small booth, with no door, the guard ordered Papa to take off his clothing and assume the standard search position. The guard ordered
Papa to go through the routine of raising his arms, opening his mouth and then bending over to inspect his anal cavity for contraband. No contraband was
found. Not satisfied with his search the guard asked Papa to spread his ass cheeks again. No contraband was found. The guard then asked Papa for the
third consecutive time to spread his ass cheeks.
Enough was enough Papa thought, he asked the guard what he was looking for. The guard gave no response and instead just laughed. Papa became
outraged of the dehumanizing treatment he had experienced. He asked the guard to call his superior supervisor. The guard laughed again and told him
to get dressed and leave or he would lock him up. Totally dehumanized Papa went to the law library to write a complaint against the guard.
While researching the issue Papa discovered 20 pages of directives issued by the New York State Department of Corrections on how guards should search the body cavities of prisoners. Papa was disgusted at the dehumanizing procedures and decided to paint about this dehumanizing experience. He created automatic paintings and glued parts of the directives to them. The six pieces of work were then confiscated by the administration when Papa tried to send them out to the free world. He was charged with smuggling out Department of Corrections directives, although no such rules existed against displaying them because they were considered public documents.
The prison administration gave Papa a choice, either the policy directives be removed or the paintings would be destroyed. The administration did not
want thefree world to view this dehumanizing procedure. Papa was forced to strip the directives from his art work. Feeling defeated by the incident
and enforcing the feeling that the prison wanted total control his life, even his creative process.
Despite the years of behavior modification techniques that the prison subjected him to, his creative impulse took control and forced Papa to speak
out against this dehumanizing experience. He recreated the cut up directives and then made diagrams of each painting and smuggled them along out through
the mail. Despite the risk of losing his pending quest for executive clemency Papa took the chance in order to try and tell the outside world of the
dehumanizing experience of body cavity searches.
A year later Papa 's wish came true. He was granted clemency and upon his release he had an art exhibit in a NYC gallery.
He reassembled the contraband series and it was displayed at the Outsider Gallery. The work was then featured in the NY Times where
the free world learned of body cavity searches!
This incident is also featured in Papa’s book 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom
Body Cavity Search
Forced Strip Search
Radiological Body Search
Double click on photos of DOC Directives to see enlarged version