Paño depicting La Virgen de Guadalupe, 1996
by Tony, Texas Prison System
colored ink on paño (handkerchief)
floated on an acid free mat, black metal frame
20.25" high x 20.25" wide framed
Drawn in the style of Chicano Tattoo art, Paños (handkerchiefs) are used in prison as a means of income and barter, as well as for communication and mental escape. The historical, religious, cultural, erotic and sociopolitical images on the paños range from cartoon figures drawn for a child’s birthday to a collage depicting the realities associated with incarceration.
The most common images are associated with life behind bars and what the artist has left outside the prison walls. Though physically isolated from society, the Chicano prisoners’ cultural identity remains strong. The completed paño often serves as a love letter, birthday card, tribute to a cultural hero and/or personal testimonial of life experiences.