500 Plates and Counting: Immortalizing Death Row's Last Meals

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Unsurprisingly, political movements across the globe owe much of their success to the work of forward-thinking artists. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica sought to shock the viewer into a state of political consciousness with images of brutality and authoritarianism, while the mysterious graffiti guerilla Banksy re-appropriates acts of vandalism for the sake of nuanced cultural observations. Yet sometimes, the darkest issues of our generation are confronted in a manner that can only be described as lovely.

In The Last Supper, activist Julie Green has created a series of ceramic plates, each of which illustrate the final meal requests of prisoners on death row to protest the United States’ use of capital punishment. Images range from lobster and ice cream to a single Jolly Rancher. One prisoner even requested that his mother come to cook him his favorite comfort food. Created by Dark Rye, the online magazine from Whole Foods (a business not typically associated with progressive talking points), the documentary below chronicles how Green became so drawn to the issue. In 1999, after reading a particularly detailed description of one inmate’s last meal in her Oklahoma newspaper, she realized how much this man’s tastes and preferences mirrored those of her own family. The experience humanized the inmate for Green, who has promised to continue her artistic project until capital punishment is eradicated in the U.S. 

For more work by Dark Rye, visit http://www.darkrye.com/.

Via Vimeo’s Staff Picks.

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Alessandra Ram is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic Video Channel. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy.

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