Portrait Garden is a metaphorical garden of 'portraits' of eleven women incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, a multilevel security prison in Jessup, Maryland. Portrait Garden used environmental stewardship as a tool for self-reflection, resulting in the creation of three perennial gardens on the prison grounds. Cazabon conducted interviews with each woman, asking them to self-identify with perennial plants. She then selected for each an additional, native species. In the fall of 2013, Cazabon and the eleven women established the gardens, which the women continued to maintain. The following spring, Cazabon returned to photograph the mature plants, creating Portrait Garden, a collection of photographs of the cultivated plants paired with the recorded conversations she shared with each woman.
Portrait Garden started in the summer of 2013 when Cazabon began working with this group of women who volunteered to be part of the Maryland Green Prisons Initiative, a program created to bring nature into Maryland prisons by supporting partnerships between inmates and researchers outside of the prison system. The women selected for participation in Portrait Garden are serving sentences that range from 5 years to Life. In order to protect their identities, first names only are used and in some cases at their request, their names have been changed.
Portrait Garden was first exhibited as a series of 100 interactive posters installed in Baltimore Light Rail trains in December 2014 - January 2015. The project has since also been exhibited in galleries and has been published in book form, Portrait Garden: Self-Renewal Through Environmental Stewardship (Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, 2017).
Lynn Cazabon is an artist who creates work using a wide range of media and methodologies. She is a Professor of Art at University of Maryland Baltimore County. Portrait Garden was funded by a Rubys Media Arts Grant, conceived and initiated with start-up funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and are a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.