Tag Archives: Montana State Prison

The Bridle Show

24 Dec

IMG_5811What: Artist Talk by Lisa Kinoshita
Where: Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 South, MLK Street  Tacoma, WA 98405
When: Friday, December 28, 2012 at 5 pm
Cost: Free

Lisa Kinoshita’s Bridle Show explores the vanishing art of horsehair hitching, a traditional Western art whose most skilled practitioners are amongst the inmates at Montana State Prison (MSP). Kinoshita traveled to the prison to interview inmates who are making horsehair art, and she took up the parallel art of leather braiding and knotting, a time-honored practice of vaqueros, American Indians and cowboys, to collaborate on a single horse’s bridle which demonstrates the beauty of a functional art form revered in centuries past.

Since the 1800s, inmates at MSP have kept this incredibly intricate and increasingly rare art alive inside prison walls, passing on their knowledge from hand to hand (mostly) under supervised conditions. Hitching exists at other prisons, in Washington (Walla Walla), Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona, but none surpasses the quality of work coming out of Deer Lodge, MT. Observers say this practice has been shown to help reduce tension in the prison environment and build inmates’ self-confidence, while also contributing to victims’ restitution. Inmates are allowed to sell their finished pieces, such as horsehair bridles, for up to thousands of dollars in the prison gift shop. In the process, they are keeping alive a skill that few modern artisans have the time or patience to master.

The Tacoma Arts Commission is proud to help fund this project through the Tacoma Artists Initiative Program.

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Hitched horsehair reins by MSP inmate. Unlike braiding, hitching consists of thousands of miniscule half-hitch knots, tied 5-10 hairs at a time.

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