A few years ago I found a copy of the book Phantasies of a Prisoner, by Lowell Naeve. I’ve had a hard time finding information on Naeve, but fortunately his autobiography, A Field of Stones exists as a testament to his personal politicization. Naeve was initially imprisoned for being a resister to the draft during World War II. His book is filled with original poetry and black pen dreamscape images of miniscule figures traveling through endless deserts, standing or falling off the edges of cliffs, and wandering trapped in prison mazes or being chased by officials riding on giant ostrich like creatures. This is his blunt statement about the monotony of serving time.
Fantasy is the only true escape, revealed through images of birds flying over gates and walls, prison cells are giant flowers with views to the outside, and ladders squeezing through windows to carry people to freedom. The drawings were later published in Phantasies of a Prisoner in 1958- 14 years after he was released.
Naeve objected to all forms oppression, and his personal identification as an anarchist resulted from his own observations from every day occurrences. He was opposed to the indiscriminant killing of animals for sport or so called necessity, the celebration of war in children’s schoolbooks, and US control over foreign resources, which he learned of from his travels in Mexico. After registering for the draft, he refused to serve, and was subsequently imprisoned twice, serving a total of four and a half years in nine prisons.
While serving time, he continued to engage in political activity, and protested against censorship, poor food quality, and the segregation of black prisoners. He also wrote a prison newsletter called The Clink. Naeve resisted through his artwork, created by wiping ink off of copies of Life magazines and drawing with whatever tool he could find.
While serving a year long sentence in Danbury Prison, he decided to ask the warden for art supplies. Surprisingly the warden agreed, but with the ulterior motive of making an example of Naeve as a model prisoner to visiting authorities. In addition the warden tried to make Naeve produce portraits of his family. Naeve refused to comply and said he will instead draw lots between the prisoners and officials to see who will get a portrait painted, refusing to place the oppressors on a pedestal.
He published his books with David Wieck, an anarchist he met in prison and life long friend. Together they later formed the anarchist group WHY?. I’ve had trouble finding out more info on Naeve, but know that he continued to be involved in activism with his wife, and his son, who was later accused of resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. If anyone has any other info please send an email! I think Naeve is still around in Vermont or Canada, and I would love to interview him!