Aerial views of prison yards as abstract art

I realize this is a somewhat unconventional topic for art, but it started with looking for something in NYC via Google satellite view, and then accidentally happening upon an interesting composition at Rikers Island in New York City: the basketball courts, with their splotchy and fading painted surface contrasted by the stark white buildings that visually "lock in" the courts. This prompted my curiousity to see if I could find interesting aerial photographs of sports and recreational facilities at other famous prisons, and below is what I found.


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Below left are the aforementioned basketball courts at Rikers Island Correctional Center in Queens, New York. Famous inmates at this prison who may have used these courts include Lil' Wayne, Sid Vicious, and David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz.

Below right is the baseball field at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California. That's a pretty sad-looking outfield, don't you think? Famous inmates at this prison who may have used this baseball field include a few creative types, including Merle Haggard (country music singer and songwriter) and Leo Gordon (actor, screenwriter and novelist).

aerial view of basketball courts at Rikers Island Prison

Basketball courts at Rikers Island

aerial view of baseball field at San Quentin Prison

Baseball field at San Quentin Prison


Below left is the recreation yard at Alcatraz, near San Francisco, California. As you can see, there's no specific sports-related setup, it's basically a walled-off outdoor space where prisoners could get some fresh air. Famous inmates at Alcatraz who may have used this yard include Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and James "Whitey" Bulger.

Below right is the basketball court and baseball field at Folsom State Prison, in Folsom, California. Famous inmates who may have used these facilities include Charles Manson, Suge Knight, and Rick James.

aerial view of recreation yard at Alcatraz Prison

Recreation yard at Alcatraz

aerial view of athletic fields at Folsom State Prison

Athletic fields at Folsom State Prison


Below left are the baseball fields at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York. It almost looks like a four-leaf clover, although I'm sure there was no good luck involved in being there. Famous inmates who may have used these baseball fields include Tupac Shakur, Mark David Chapman, and H. Rap Brown.

Below right are the handball courts at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. Famous inmates who may have played handball here include Michael Vick and Bernie Madoff.

aerial view of the baseball fields at Attica Prison

Baseball fields at Attica Prison

aerial view of handball courts at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta

Handball courts at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta


There you have it. It's not exactly "prison art" in the traditional sense, but I do think that these images hold some interest on two levels - first, focusing on just the visuals, they become semi-abstract art works, not unlike these airport runways that I found online a while ago. Secondly, they start to tell a story via the imagination, when one thinks about the notorious inmates who spent time at these prisons. I hope you found these interesting as well.




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