Born in Detroit in 1960, Marvin Francis grew up in Tennessee and Kentucky before leaving home at the age of 13. Convicted of murder in 1986, Francis is currently serving a life sentence with possibility of parole in 25 years. While incarcerated at North Point Training Facility in Kentucky, Francis enrolled in an art appreciation course that piqued his interest in papier maché. His earliest sculptures were made from toilet paper and dissolved ramen noodles. Though he is now able to purchase paint, glue, and dowel rods, his work is still crafted from papier maché made with toilet paper.
These sculptures address politically charged issues, such as the death penalty, and the unique cultural, psychological, and sexual realities of prison life. Throughout, Francis utilizes a rich symbolic language to explore a notion of time inextricably linked with punishment and redemption–measured not in days, but in decades. Completely removed from society at large, he labors hundreds of hours over each piece, demonstrating a monk-like reflection and focus that is rare in our increasingly interconnected and distracted culture. Francis’ work speaks to universal human experiences: the unrelenting passage of time and the inevitability of death.