Through the eyes of a prison guard

Pat Bliss’ new exhibit ‘Lotta Stories: A Correctional Officer’s Perspective’ runs until June 30 at the On the Avenue Art Gallery. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

Local artist’s latest exhibit looks back on his time as a correctional officer

Pat Bliss never intended to have a career as a prison guard.

The local artist had been working as a farmer and rancher until the 1980s, when hard times forced him to sell the farm and seek work elsewhere. His job search led him to Saskatchewan Penitentiary, where he worked until 2012.

“I made it a good career and of course with any job there’s ups and downs and I have decided to show that we have our side, too, and it’s not always an easy job. Not as easy as a lot of people think,” Bliss said.

Bliss provides snapshots of life as a prison guard in his new exhibition of work, Lotta Stories: A Correctional Officers Perspective. The show runs until June 30 at the On the Avenue Art Gallery. The gallery has moved to a new location at 1101 Central Ave. at the corner of Central and 11 Street.

“I’ve always been a real supporter of inmate art. As a guard I actually had several fellows that I used to talk to about art. Never taught or anything like that, but just spent time with them just to see what they were working on,” Bliss recalled.

“There are some fantastic artists that come out of there, however nobody’s ever done it from a correctional officer’s perspective.”

The mixed-media collection is a departure from Bliss’ typical wildlife painting. The exhibit features interior and exterior scenes from the prison, “mostly from memory.” Images of darkened hallways, compact cells and the aftermath of a prison suicide provide a startlingly frank window into a world that many people only glimpse through the big and small screen.

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