'Inside/Out' Exhibit Features Work By Incarcerated Artist

Aug 13, 2019

Art and the people who make it are often found on the margins of society. In the case of painter M. Winston, those margins include a cell and guards. Winston is incarcerated, and it was just an accident that his work — miniature abstract paintings — was discovered.

While Winston can’t attend, his work is getting a full gallery show in the Third Ward. Inside/Out opens Friday. In addition to Winston's paintings, the show features a four channel video that addresses a profound generational connection by Ted Brusubardis and paintings of imaginary plants and flowers by Sheboygan native Thomas Haneman.

Unable to speak with Winston, we are able to chat with his Buddhist teacher: Tonen O’Connor. She's no stranger to Milwaukee. For 21 years, she was the managing director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. She was also the head priest at the Milwaukee Zen Center for a decade. She began the Center's prison ministry in 1998 and was the resident priest at the Center from 2001 to 2011. It was through her work in prison ministry where she met Winston and learned of his art.

(M. Winston artwork from left) "Demetria" (2014) watercolor, 1x1.5 inches; "Alaska 2" acrylic, 1 1/4 x 1 3/4 inches; "Saudi Arabia" 1.5 x 1.5 inches.
Credit Portrait Society Gallery

"All those years, I only knew him as a pleasant guy, very serious about his Buddhist practice. I had no idea that behind this very pleasant guy was a major artist," says O'Connor.

She gives Lake Effect’s Bonnie North the details about the exhibit and Winston: