Portrait Garden is a metaphorical garden of 'portraits' of eleven women incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW), 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 inmates 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. Currently, the project is on long-term exhibit in the Top of the World Gallery in the World Trade Center Baltimore.
Lynn Cazabon is an artist who creates work using a wide range of media and methodologies. She is currently Associate Professor of Art at University of Maryland Baltimore County.