Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the USA, an estimated 100,000 of them are kept in solitary confinement, often for years on end. Black is the Day, Black is the Night explores how that type of long-term isolation can affect an individual’s sense of self and perception of reality. Through personal correspondence with seven men serving life and death sentences, Elkins created images that attempt to showcase the unexpectedly vulnerable aspects of her penpals’ incarcerated lives. Using appropriated material, she created composite landscapes of memories shared in letters and pixelated portraits using an image loss ratio of years behind bars to years alive.
Of the seven men Elkins originally wrote with, this installation represents two: one who was sentenced to life as a teen and was released 28 years later and one who was executed after spending over 15 years on death row.