-- "Visiting Uncle Andy" weaves together family memories and court records to reflect on the impact of Taylor’s uncle’s conviction as a “Mentally Disordered Sex Offender” --
March 31, 2023
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has commissioned artist E.D. Taylor to create a site-specific installation for its 2023 season. Through a series of dioramas and artifacts, the artist reflects on a childhood visit with her Uncle Andy that took place following his confinement to California’s Atascadero State Hospital as a “Mentally Disordered Sex Offender.” Taylor’s work, titled Visiting Uncle Andy at Atascadero State Hospital (a maximum-security forensic facility), 1981, or simply Visiting Uncle Andy, debuts at Eastern State Penitentiary on Friday, May 5, 2023, and will remain on view through the end of the year.
On June 20, 1980, Andy, a seventh-grade teacher, was involuntarily committed to Atascadero State Hospital, an all-male psychiatric institution in California. He served seven years there for sexually assaulting at least two pre-pubescent boys who attended the K-12 school where he worked. The artist and her family visited Andy at Atascadero first in 1981 and again in 1983. Andy’s name has been changed to protect the identities of all parties involved.
E.D. Taylor’s installation weaves her and her family’s fragmented memories together with facts gleaned from court documents. Visitors to the historic site enter a cell to view the installation; they are invited to look through a series of three peepholes inset into historic cell doors. Inside, dioramas depict the artist’s memories of trips to Atascadero State Hospital to visit her uncle during his incarceration there. Display cases on both sides of the cell hold various artifacts relating to Uncle Andy’s life, arrest, and conviction, including yearbook photos, redacted court records, and Taylor's musings about Andy's downfall.
“This installation is about where my uncle’s life intersects with mine. It’s about how events reverberate through time,” says E.D. Taylor. “It’s also about the tension between what we remember and what really happened. It’s about the way crime impacts victims, perpetrators, and family members. And, finally, it’s about forgiveness.”
“We are honored that E.D. considered Eastern State Penitentiary a fitting backdrop for such a deeply personal, but also universally thought-provoking installation,” says Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary’s senior vice president. “At Eastern State, we invite all our visitors to consider the ways their lives intersect with the criminal justice system. This story presents another avenue to consider the ripple effects of crime. We look forward to the difficult but important conversations this piece will encourage here at Eastern State.”
E.D. Taylor’s Visiting Uncle Andy debuts to the public on Friday, May 5, 2023, after a private reception the evening before. The work is available during daytime tours as well as Night Tours: Summer Twilight, and will remain on view through the end of the year.
Artist installations are included with admission to Eastern State Penitentiary. Other standard programs, including “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, guide-led Hands-On History tours, and history exhibits, are also included with admission. Tickets are available online at www.EasternState.org or at the door, subject to availability.
About the Artist:
E.D. Taylor's mixed-media work has been exhibited across the United States and in Montreal. Taylor says, "It started when I was 3 years old and allowed to look through a coffee table book of Michelangelo’s sculpture and paintings. From then on, making art became a serious thing for me, up to and including clandestine crayon scribblings on my parents’ freshly painted walls. Having ultimately earned a Master of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design, I keep at it.”
About Artist Installations at Eastern State Penitentiary:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has commissioned more than 100 site-specific artist installations since 1995. Projects are selected through an annual application process, which seeks memorable, thought-provoking additions to the historic site’s public programming, combined with true excellence in artistic practice. Installations are chosen for their ability to make connections between the complex history of the penitentiary and today’s justice system, corrections policies, and the lives of people living or working behind prison walls.
Artist installations are included with standard admission to Eastern State Penitentiary. In total, 16 artist installations—one new and 15 returning installations—will be on view for the 2023 season, May through December:
Linda Bond: Deadly Weapons
Greg Cowper: Specimen
William Cromar: GTMO
Michelle Handelman: Beware the Lily Law
Tyler Held: Identity Control
Jesse Krimes: Apokaluptein16389067:II
Rachel Livedalen: Doris Jean
Mark Menjivar: DLP Mirror
Jess Perlitz: Chorus
Provisional Island: An Electric Kite
Ann Reichlin: Transient Room
Dehanza Rogers: #BlackGirlhood
Alexander Rosenberg: A Climber’s Guide to Eastern State Penitentiary or, Eastern State’s Architecture, and How to Escape It
Solitary Watch with Jean Casella, Jeanine Olsen, and Laurie Jo Reynolds: Photo Requests from Solitary
Cindy Stockton Moore: Other Absences
E.D. Taylor: Visiting Uncle Andy at Atascadero State Hospital (a maximum-security forensic facility), 1981
About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 85,000 people during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open for tours year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; award-winning exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.
In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.
For more information, visit www.EasternState.org.
Artist installations are made possible in part by revenue from Eastern State’s Halloween fundraiser, Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary.
Eastern State also receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
Marketing support is financed in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development.