Written by David Ugbabe
Famous painter, Julie Green who is known for painting plates with the last meals of death row inmates, has died after a battle with ovarian cancer.
The the artist’s gallery confirmed that she died on Tuesday, October 12, aged 60. For over 21 years, Green spent her career illuminating the complex emotional decisions of those facing imminent death, as well as the racial and historic implications of capital punishment in the United States. She noted that each work in the series depicts the first meal eaten upon release from incarceration for wrongful conviction.
Some plates were created on the day of the execution, almost in real time. In other cases, Green combed records to identify last meal requests. One work shows the meals of two Black Mississippi teenagers, who, in 1947, received fried chicken and watermelon before being sent to the electric chair for murder. In cases where an inmate requested nothing, Green painted the word “None” or the text recorded by prison officials.
Green ended the project in September after 21 years of consistent effort with about 800 plates from “The Last Supper” on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington, where they will remain through January. Talking about her work, Green shared at the Bellevue exhibition that “The meals humanize death row.” Her goal was to paint 50 plates a year until the United States abolished the death penalty, but as Green’s illness progressed, the artist decided to conclude the series with 1000 works.
CNN shared that Green who was a professor of art at Oregon State University, created a poignant legacy that highlights the strange and soulful ritual for condemning prisoners on death row through “The Last Supper,” a series of blue-on-white ceramic kiln-fired dishware with painted images of inmates’ final dinner requests.