Richard Matt was also a gifted artist.
He spent his days at the Clinton Correctional Facility where he was serving 25 years to life sitting in his cell painting striking portraits of celebrities,
...or their family members from photographs,
Which begs the question: could not this greatly talented human being who was savvy enough to run a successful art business in a prison have made at least as good a living in the outside world selling his art as committing robberies?
Though I suppose that's a moot question in regard to someone who's been in and out of prison since he was 13 years old.
But in truth the most amazing aspect of Richard Matt's story is that it's not actually all that amazing.
Apparently there is a vast community of artists within the prison system. Art seems to flourish behind the walls and cell bars and is something that prisoners gravitate to, a means of self-expression or a way to occupy time. Some, like Richard Matt, find the means to obtain quality materials, others use whatever they can scrounge, from ball-point pens to the dye soaked from M&M's applied with brushes made from toilet paper, to toilet paper as a medium for sculpture.
Good art is valued among the prison population, and is traded among inmates or used, as it was by Richard Matt, as currency to exchange for goods and status.
And while some inmates draw, paint or sculpt just to pass the time, others have exhibited great talent and their art has been purchased by galleries and collectors, especially the many collectors of prison art.
According to an article in The New York Times:
"Art by particularly notorious convicts — Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy — has always found an avid, sometimes macabre, collector base. The market for inmate art typically ranges from small galleries and exhibitions to eBay and other collectibles websites, including murderauction.com and murderabilia.net."
Some states allow prisoners to sell their art in the outside world, some don't, but works of artistically gifted violent felons are displayed in prison art exhibitions held all across the country.
And according to a former fellow inmate of Richard Matt's, "He was the best in the system that anyone could recall".
Sometimes it's hard to wrap your head around the dichotomy between beauty and ugliness.
1. "The Art Of Doing Time: Prisoner, Painter, Escapee," Randy Kennedy, Graham Bowley and Colin Moynihan, June 27, 2015.
2. "Richard Matt", Wikipedia, July 3, 2015
3. "Prison Style Art", C.A., convictedartist.com, July 3, 2015
3. 20th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners March 25-April 8, 2015, https://www.lsa.umich.edu/pcap/whatwedo/artshow
4. Crime Art Exhibit, http://library.sdsu.edu/news/crime-art-exhibit
5. Safe Streets Art Foundation, http://www.safestreetsarts.org/