Beth Thielen



What relationship does love have to freedom?

While drawing one day, this question formed in my consciousness. I had just started working with incarcerated populations through the California Arts Council, Artist in Residency program.

Working with incarcerated people, I am always faced with how differently they are perceived by the outside world from how I have come to see them. The quality of my teaching experience with people in prisons cannot compare with my teaching experiences at universities. Those who have lost their freedom understand the need and power of art.

To teach in the art room at San Quentin Prison is to experience a group collectively striving for transcendence. We begin at 8:00am. We work until they are called for count at 4:00pm. No one takes a break. No one wants to. Art matters here.

The answer to my question is elegantly stated in a quote from Toni Morrison: “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” What does this say about our criminal justice system and our democracy? The incarcerated have met hardships often generational, with courage, generosity and strength. They are like a species living on the edge of sustainability. Life’s stress has them searching, adapting, changing. So much so, that I have never before encountered a group that brings so much imagination to lack - a rare and vital skill.

Dr. Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund has said: “We will not solve our environmental problems unless we solve our social and economic ones.” With that in mind, what if we made prison reform part of reparations and the Green New Deal? I say this not only because it is right to free many of the incarcerated, but also because we need them. Their hard won skills may be what we need in the new challenges we face.

The power of art is in making us see anew. See with me. Change with me. We have work to do.

Beth Thielen 2019.


2018 "Artists and Their Books Books and Their Artists." The Getty Research Institute. Los Angeles, CA
2018 "Dislocations" Collar Works, Troy, NY
2018 "Incorrigibles" Charles P. Sifton Gallery, Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, Brooklyn, NY
2018 "En Masse 2018" Thompson Giroux Gallery, Chatham, NY
2016 "En Masse III" Thompson Giroux Gallery, Chatham, NY
2015 "En Masse II" Thompson Giroux Gallery, Chatham, NY
2013 Thompson Giroux Gallery, Chatham, NY
2012 "Elements of Art" Thompson Giroux Gallery, Chatham, NY
2011 “Tower Book” Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, DC.
2009 "New Acquisitions: An Artist Responds to Hurricane Katrina" Duke University Gallery. Durham, NC
2003 “Time Slips” Beth Thielen & Dick Blau. The College of Wooster Art Museum. Wooster, Ohio
2002 “The World From Here: Treasures of the Great Libraries of L.A.”
UCLA Hammer Museum. Los Angeles, CA
2001 “American Treasures” Group Exhibition. The Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.
2001 “Time Slips” Solo Installation, Alzheimer’s Project. Elsa Mott Ives Gallery, YWCA-New York, NY
2000 “Time Slips” Group Exhibit, The Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
1999 “The Time of Our Lives” Group Exhibit. The New Museum of Contemporary Art. New York, NY
1999 “Art By The Book - Helfgott & Thielen” Art Gallery - University of Redlands, CA
1998 “Boundless: Liberating the Book Form” Group Exhibit. S.F. Center for the Book. S.F. CA
1997 “Fail-Safe” Two person Exhibit. The Art Works Gallery. Riverside, CA
1997 “The New Storytellers: Artists’ Books in the Boston Libraries & Museums”
Group Exhibit. The Houghton Library, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA
1996 “Open Book” Kellogg University Art Gallery, Cal State Polytechnic University. CA
1995 “Within a Protected Space” Group Exhibit. RacheleLozzi Gallery. Los Angeles, CA
1995 “Book Works” Group Exhibit. John Thomas Gallery Annex. Santa Monica, CA
1993 “Persephone in Los Angeles” Solo Exhibit. Arundel Gallery. Los Angeles, CA
1992 “Interactive Stories, Bookworks & Beyond” Rancho Santiago College. Santa Ana, CA
1991 “Light & Shadow” Two person Exhibit. The Art Works Gallery. Riverside, CA
1991 “Books as Art” Group Exhibit. Boca Raton Museum of Art. Boca Raton, Florida
1990 “Cross Currents: Books From the Edge of the Pacific” Traveling Pacific Rim. 1992.
1989 “A Southern Ca Decade: Contemporary Book Arts” Group Exhibit. U.C. Los Angeles
1988 “Light From Another Country: Artists Working in Prisons” Statewide. CA
1987 “Undercover: Books By Ca. Women Artists” Fresno Museum of Art. Fresno. CA
1986 “Art In Other Places” Group Exhibit. Wight Gallery, U. C. Los Angeles, CA
1985 “Experimental Bookworks” Women’s Caucus for the Arts. Brand Library. Glendale, CA

2007 The Puffin Foundation
2014 Rauschenberg Fellowship Award
2004 Kaliopeia Foundation - Funding Award. Prison Arts Project.
2004 Blue Mountain Center - Artist Residency. Blue Mountain, NY
2003 City of Los Angeles - Certificate of Appreciation. Artist, Metro Gold Line.
2003 County of Los Angeles - Commendation. Artist, Chinatown Station. Metro Gold Line.
2003 Congress of the United States - Certificate of Congressional Recognition. Artist, LA Gold Line.
2002 Playa Vista Project - Project Artist, Spyglass Park.
2000 Sandler Foundation - Funding Award. Prison Arts Project.
1999 Durfee Foundation - Nomination for Fellowship.
1998 Hahamonga Watershed Park - Project Artist. Pasadena, CA
1997 California Arts Council - Artist in Residence: Arts In Corrections. 3 year funding.
1996 City of Pasadena - Grants for the Arts, Community Arts Program. Pasadena. CA
1994 City of Pasadena - Artist Fellowship. Grants for the Arts Program. Pasadena, CA
1993 Metro Transportation Authority - Public Art Commission, Pasadena Blue Line. LA, CA
1992 Blue Mountain Center - Artist Residency. Blue Mountain, NY
1991 California Arts Council - Artist in Residence: The Armory Center for the Arts.
1988 California Arts Council - Artist in Residence: Arts In Corrections. 3 year funding.
1987 California Arts Council - Public Art Commission: The Cal Train Design Team Project.
The J. P. Getty Museum of Art. Getty Research Institute, Artist Book Collection. Los Angeles, CA
The Library of Congress. Rare Book & Special Collections Division. Washington, D.C. Bowdoin College The National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C.
Special Collections. Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. Brunswick, Maine
JCBA Book Arts collection. Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
The New York Public Library. The Spencer Collection. New York, N.Y.
The Brooklyn Public Library. Special Collections. Brooklyn, N.Y.
Harvard University. Houghton Library, Graphic Art Collection. Cambridge, MA
Yale University. Special Collections. Connecticut.
Smith College. W.A. Neilson Library, Rare Book Room. Northampton, MA
Long Island University. Artists Book Collection. Brooklyn, N.Y.
Duke University Gallery, Durham, NC
2018 “Artists and Their Books Books and Their Artists.” Marcia Reed, Glen Phillips. The Getty Research

Institute. Los Angeles, CA Illustrated.

2018 “Fit to Print! Getty Research Institute Celebrates the Wild World …” Artnews, 10/24/18.

2018 “Dislocations: Artists respond to mass incarceration.” ramblingdigitalhumanist.blogspot.com

2018 “Book This Art: The Getty Research Institute’s Exhibition of Artists’ Books.” Tom Teicholz.

Forbes Magazine. Issue 7/12/2018 Illustrated.

2018 “Country Gone Missing: Nightmares in the Time of Trump.” Edited by Louise Steinman,

Illustrations by Beth Thielen.



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