By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 16, 2015
Courtesy of Ricco/Maresca Gallery

Intricately carving imagery of prison life into ostrich eggs might seem like an odd artistic endeavor, but as is often the case with artists, there’s a deep meaning behind the madness.

Now 53, Gil Batle focuses on his art from a small island in the Philippines, but for over 20 years, he bounced around the California prison system after being convicted of fraud and forgery. According to a description of his project, known as “Hatched in Prison,” the artist’s “self-taught drawing ability evolved behind bars into sophisticated and clandestine tattooing skills that protected him from murderous gang violence in prisons…. Batle’s facility for drawing was considered magic by the murderers, drug dealers, and armed robbers whose stories he now recounts in minutely carved detail on fragile ostrich egg shells.”

But why eggs? The medium holds a unique significance, not only in its fragility, but also, in the words of author Norman Brosterman, “as nature’s most perfect creation and manifestation of life and birth.” The result is a touching reminder of the stakes we often overlook when casting someone away to prison, especially considering America’s almost unfathomable commitment to incarceration, with nearly one out of every 100 Americans currently behind bars. Far and away the largest prison population in the developed world.

Starting tomorrow, you can see Hatched in Prison at the Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York City until January 9th.

[h/t Neatorama]