Technical skill appears more often than artistic gifts in the Prison Art Show, but the show as a whole reveals a kind of creativity not usually associated with convicts. Anyone who wants to buy tooled-leather handbags or wallets, dry flies, costume jewelry or model churches could do much worse than the handicrafts on display in Holyoke. But handicrafts are not always art, and anyone who examines the works for their aesthetic value will quickly find that one piece of tooled leather looks very much like another.
The pictures are more rewarding. Most have the amateurish quality one expects, but several are surprisingly good. Three powerful portraits and an interesting still-life vaguely reminiscent of Chirico's work, all painted by a Norfolk prisoner, need no apologies at all. And several sketches of President Kennedy display perhaps the slickest, if most mechanical, technique in the show. But the general profusion of romantic, often garishly-colored outdoor scenes will probably interest the psychologist more than the art critic. It would be unrealistic to ignore the flaws in the prisoners' work but equally unrealistic to ignore the conditions under which it was created.