Artist Julie Green Paints the Last Suppers of 600+ Death Row Inmates on Ceramic Plates

What would you choose for your last meal?

The com­fort food of your child­hood?

Or some lav­ish dish you nev­er had a chance to taste?

What might your choice reveal about your race, region­al ori­gins, or eco­nom­ic cir­cum­stances?

Artist Julie Green devel­oped a fas­ci­na­tion with death row inmates’ final meals while teach­ing in Okla­homa, where the per capi­ta exe­cu­tion rate exceeds Texas’ and con­demned pris­on­ers’ spe­cial menu requests are a mat­ter of pub­lic record:

Fried fish fil­lets with red cock­tail sauce from Long John Silver’s

Large pep­per­oni piz­za with sausage and extra mush­rooms and a large grape soda.

Chateaubriand steak, medi­um rare with A‑1 steak sauce, fried shrimp entree with cock­tail sauce, large baked pota­to with but­ter, sour cream, chopped scal­lions, bacon bits, salt and pep­per, six pieces of gar­lic but­ter toast, whole Ken­tucky Bour­bon pecan pie, one liter of Coca Cola Clas­sic, and bag of ice

Last Meal Plate

The lat­ter order, from April 29, 2014, was denied on the grounds that it would have exceed­ed the $15-per-cus­tomer max. The pris­on­er who’d made the request skipped his last meal in protest.

Green recre­ates these, and hun­dreds of oth­er death row pris­on­ers’ last sup­pers in cobalt blue min­er­al paint on care­ful­ly select­ed sec­ond-hand plates. The influ­ence of Dutch Delft­ware and Span­ish still life paint­ing are evi­dent in her depic­tion of burg­ers, Ken­tucky Fried Chick­en, and pie.

Many of the requests betray a child­like poignan­cy:

A sin­gle hon­ey bun (North Car­oli­na, Jan­u­ary 30, 1998) 

Shrimp and ice cream  (New Mex­i­co, Novem­ber 6, 2001)

 A peanut but­ter and jel­ly sand­wich (Flori­da, Feb­ru­ary 26, 2014)

One man got per­mis­sion for his moth­er to pre­pare his last meal in the prison kitchen. Anoth­er was sur­prised with a birth­day cake after prison staff learned he had nev­er had one before.

Some refrain from exer­cis­ing their right to a spe­cial request, a choice Green doc­u­ments in text. She resorts to sim­i­lar tac­tics when a pris­on­er requests that his final meal be kept con­fi­den­tial.

Final Meal Not Made Public

Each meal Green paints is accom­pa­nied by a menu, the date, and the state in which it was served, but the pris­on­ers and their crimes go unnamed. She has com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing fifty plates a year until cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is abol­ished.

Green nar­rates a Last Sup­per slideshow above, or you can browse all the plates in the project, orga­nized by state here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Pris­on­ers Ate at Alca­traz in 1946: A Vin­tage Prison Menu

The Odd Col­lec­tion of Books in the Guan­tanamo Prison Library

Mod­ern Art Was Used As a Tor­ture Tech­nique in Prison Cells Dur­ing the Span­ish Civ­il War

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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