Formerly incarcerated artist Gary Tyler has his first solo gallery show

August 19, 2023

“In 1974, when he was only 16 years of age, Gary Tyler was falsely charged with the murder of a white youth in Destrehan, Louisiana, during a racially tense era in the deep South. These events resulted in a 41 ½ year stint in the state’s penitentiary, and the dreams of yet another young man of color, deferred.

“While serving his unwarranted sentence at Angola, Tyler learned how to sew in the prison’s Hospice Program, where he would use it to support the program financially and to comfort dying patients, along with their families. Ironically, he grew up in a household where this craft was prevalent, but at the time it wasn’t at the forefront of his interests. ‘My grandmother – she sewed as well as made quilts,’ he says. ‘When you’re young, you don’t pay too much attention, but you do notice things that people you’re around are doing. Later on in life, everything tends to come full circle.’

“The full circle moment would manifest itself after his release in 2016. Quilting – something that was present throughout Tyler’s entire life – served as cathartic for the now 64-year-old, specifically in his work homeless youth, and as an artist.

“On July 8, Detroit’s Library Street Collective [opened] We are the Willing, Tyler’s first solo gallery show. Curated by Allison Glenn, the title was taken from the first lines of the motto for the Angola Prison drama club, which Tyler was president of for almost 30 years. …

“For Gary Tyler, the word freedom means more to him than most. This new series of self-portraits, all created within the past year, contains brightly-colored abstractions, flowers, and butterflies. The butterfly is a representation of new life, and also signifies the transformation Tyler has experienced in recent years. Through incarceration, his future was somewhat uncertain, but now, Tyler has the freedom to create, and the freedom to live his truth, unhindered.”

Read the full interview at

(Photos posted by permission from Library Street Collective)

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