“Harbinger,” pen and ink by James

For years, Terry wondered “what it would be like to be in a place where I could express myself – and be myself. I never had a purpose before coming here. When I came here, to the art program, it taught me that I could be someone more, that I could transcend the environment I had found myself in, and be someone greater and better.”

Terry said he came from a bad neighborhood, and had been involved with gangs and violence as a teenager. These days, art allows him to express himself with a paintbrush, rather than using aggression and anger.

Now, his work is among the extraordinary exhibit, “Transcendence,” at Art League of Hilton Head, on display now. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 7.

This exhibit will be like no other at the nonprofit gallery.

The featured artists will not be present – because they are incarcerated at Allendale Correctional Institution in Fairfax, S.C.

However, Delane Marynowski of Hilton Head Island, a volunteer and facilitator for the Advanced Artists of Allendale, will be there to represent the men.

The works of eight artists will be on display and for sale.

“Transcendence” was selected as the title of the exhibit because that is exactly how the artists feel about finding a creative outlet for personal expression. They have experienced the transformative power of art to transcend the limitations of their physical location and the stereotypes of their situation.

The works include subject matter such as wildlife, seascapes and landscapes, along with 3D ceramic pieces. Visitors will see oil paintings among the pastels and pen and ink drawings.

These are serious artists, and they are all self-taught. Bryan holds a BFA in computer animation, but had never painted until he joined this class. Mosi said he doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t have a pencil or pen in his hand.

James said he has had art in his heart for as long as he can remember, “and it’s still there, struggling to get out.” Ronald has been painting for more than 17 years, and likes to put smiles on people’s faces.

Tabb, a contractor by trade, learned to draw after he was incarcerated, then discovered painting. He experiments with different styles and techniques and plans to continue thriving as an artist upon his release.

Ken, who calls himself an experiential artist, has tried many forms of art and learned from each experience. He loves sharing his knowledge with others and considers himself a lifelong artist.

Gary never imagined that anything could help him in life the way art has. After a cancer diagnosis, he was able to rely on his art to help him stay positive. Now, cancer free, he is an artist with a future ahead of him.

Marynowki has spent nearly every Thursday for almost two years working with the inmates in the medium-security prison. She helped two of the inmate leaders, Terry and Ken, create the program outline, mission statement and course of story about 18 months ago through the Character Restoration Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Allendale.

CRI helps fund many programs at the prison – programs led by inmates and facilitated by volunteers. The Advanced Artists program is also funded in part by donations from members of Art League of Hilton Head.

Marynowski has provided the men with canvases, brushes, paints and other supplies. She has taken other, more advanced artists with her to the prison to teach the men about abstracts, Impressionism, color and light.

Artist friends have given her photographs for the men to use as reference materials to create their paintings.

As the men became more expressive in their art, their true talent started to shine. When she saw this, and saw the transformation the artists have experienced as people, Marynowski was compelled to find a way for them to share their works outside the prison gates.

“Their biggest dream was to show their work in a real gallery,” Marynowski said. So, she worked to make it happen.

This exhibit will mark the first time ever that Art League of Hilton Head has allowed non-members to exhibit in the gallery.

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at the gallery, located inside the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane on Hilton Head Island, S.C. The reception is free and open to the public.

The works of 150 member artists will also be on display and available for sale.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and 90 minutes before all Arts Center performances. For more information, call 843-681-5060 or visit ArtLeagueHHI.org.