Orlando Smith aka "O. Smith"

Artist Statement

During the last 25 years, while incarcerated, I created more than 55 graphic novels and countless other art projects. I’ve done covers for a host of “indie” comic book companies, postcards, t-shirt designs, public installations, and storyboards for motion picture companies and the William James Association (the Arts-in-Corrections program I work for). I produce a calendar each year that I donate to social justice organizations, I created a protest poster series, and participated in dozens of exhibitions for varied causes. 

For me, art remains a strong vehicle for ideas, knowledge, and the truth. Throughout 2020, the coronavirus ravaged San Quentin State Prison residents, resulting in 29 deaths. Hearing misinformation on corporate news outlets and disinformation coming from prison officials, I pivoted from the pleasure of comic books to the purpose of illustrated journalism, exposing lies, injustice, and abuse. “The Grueling Report” and the “O. Smith Perspective,” mix words and imagery to illustrate the deprivation of basic human rights, a policy issue at San Quentin. My art may not create a revolution, but has fostered an evolution in my thinking and perception.

As a comic book creator, I want to grab the minds of young people, especially those who are “at risk.” As an artivist, my mission is to expose human rights abuses in California’s prisons, where there is no accountability for officials who pay fines with hardworking taxpayers’ money . . . over and over and over again. I see myself as an artist that happens to be incarcerated. My art speaks beyond just prisoners’ rights, I touch on a great many social and world issues.

Artist Bio

O. Smith was born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles, and is serving 8 life sentences under the draconian Three Strikes Law. He is an illustrative journalist, graphic artist, graphic novel, and comic book creator. He is a contributing artist to the Prison Journalism Project, and has won multiple art contests across the nation. His illustrative reporting has been published in the Columbia Journalism Review with the piece “Covid vs. The Nameless”.Smith has been featured in over two dozen exhibitions since 2019, including: Painting for Justice from Prison (MoAD, 2020, CounterPulse, 2021); Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism (The Oakland Museum of California, 2021); Commonstrust: Artists and the Commons (Thacher Gallery, USF, 2022); O. Smith Perspective, a solo show (Manna Gallery, Oakland, July 2022).

To see one of his short graphic novels check out San Quentin News, Awakenings.

Contact Information

Orlando Smith (CDCR# P24614) 

San Quentin State Prison 2D45

San Quentin, CA 94974

email via:

California | SQSP

Artwork Detail: Manifesto, C.K. Gerhartsreiter AKA TAFKA Clark Rockefeller, 2022