About Marvin Francis Man In A Cage
Marvin Franciswas born in Detroit, Michigan but has spent most of his life in Kentucky. As a child he lived in Delaware and later his family moved to a small town in Western Kentucky, which is where his father is from. When Marvin was thirteen he left home to live with his maternal grandmother in Tennessee. As a child Marvin loved to roam the countryside, go fishing, frog gigging and exploring nature. Prior to his incarceration in 1986, Marvin served in the United States Navy. He also was a carpenter with interests such as spelunking and hunting arrowheads. Marvin is a self-taught prison artist. He took an art appreciation class while incarcerated at the Northpoint Training Center in Kentucky. It was there that he was first introduced to papier mache'. Due to the limited materials available to him, he used newspaper and fashioned the paste by crushing ramen noodles and mixing them with water. He now uses glue and toilet paper, but his tools remain limited and crude: emery boards, tweezers, plastic knives, and sometimes the handle of a pair of nail trimmers. His work is extremely time-consuming with most pieces taking hundreds of hours to complete. His sculptures are included in the following museum collections: 21C Museum in Louisville, Kentucky and the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead, Kentucky and information on him and his work can be found in the archives at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Marvin donates the majority of the proceeds from the sale of his art work to programs designed to prevent child abuse and to treat children who are the victims of abuse.
" I've always thought that the keyhole symbolizes incarceration and freedom because, whether coming or going, it emits the first and last sound you hear."
Marvin Francis, June 6, 2011


"Contemplating Time"
 Institute 193 Gallery, Lexington, KY,
March 8, 2012 - May 4, 2012

Marvin Francis: Return to Gallerie Soleil, Gallerie Soleil, Lexington, KY, April 21, 2009 – July 5, 2009

The Key to What?, Art Ecology Gallery, Louisville, KY, January 2, 2009 - April 17, 2009(extended run)

Prison's Paper Trail: Marvin Francis,? 21C Museum, Louisville, KY, August 3, 2007 - January 31, 2008 (extended run)

From Behind Bars: Works by Marvin Francis, Gallerie Soleil, Lexington, KY, April 9, 2004 - April 30, 2004


"2 X 20" Morehead, Kentucky
 Works by Twenty of Kentucky's Best Working Folk Artists 

Kentucky Folk Art Center
November 1, 2012

Wunderkammer, Conduit Gallery, Dallas, TX, July 9, 2011  August 31, 2011 [invited by Phillip M. Jones, Exhibit Curator and Founder and Creative Director, Institute 193, Lexington, KY]

Bars to Walls: Inmate Art Expressions, Hite Art Institute, Schneider Hall Galleries, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, August 19, 2011 - September 25, 2011[Kentucky Department of Corrections Prison Art Exhibit/Curated by Katharine Salomon][Marvin's sculpture titled Prison Blues: Inside Looking In
selected as the image on the cover and back of the exhibit catalog] 

 We are Moving, Berenberg Gallery, Boston, MA, May 3, 2009 July 18, 2009

Death's Showcase, Morlan Gallery, Transylvania University, Lexington, KY, October 22, 2008 - November 21, 2008(Invitational/1 of nine artists invited to exhibit)(sculpture Mortus Intra Muros selected as image for the show card)

Who Am I: Self-Portraits by Self-Taught Artists, Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead, KY, June 1, 2007- August 12, 2007(invitational)

Award Winners of the Fourth Annual International Assemblage Artist Competition,  Gallery 24, Brooklyn, New York, January 12, 2007-Feburary 6, 2007(First place piece Welcome exhibited at the gallery's grand opening on January 11, 2007)

Peeping In Peeping Out, PEEP SHOW, Cerlan Gallery, Lexington, KY, November 17, 2006-February 3, 2007(invitational)

Fourth Annual International Assemblage Artist Exhibition,Gallery 24 Berlin, Berlin, Germany, September 27, 2006- October 24, 2006(juried competition)

Endangered: Art and Artists, Gallerie Soleil, Lexington, KY, June 16,2006-June 30, 2006(Invitational)

New Perspectives: Recent Acquisitions at the Kentucky Folk Art Center,Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead, KY, July 15, 2004 - September 6, 2004(group exhibition including works by Minnie Adkins and Cher Shaffer)

Monsters, Living Arts and Science Center, Lexington, KY, October 1, 2003-November 1, 2003

Inside Out, Gallerie Soleil, Lexington, KY, February 20, 2003-March 20, 2003(Invitational)

Spalding University, Louisville, KY, January 10, 2003 - February
6, 2003

Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead, KY, February 20, 2003-
May 31, 2003

University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, July 18,2003-August 29, 2003

Behind the Walls: Art in Confinement, Curated by Craig Bunting
Murray State University, Murray, KY, August 19, 2002-September 29, 2002

Incarcerated Artists: Art by Inmates of Kentucky Prisons,Wingspan Gallery, Lexington, KY, May 24, 2002-June 16, 2002(Juried)

Second Annual Incarcerated Artists Exhibition, Lexington Art 
League, Lexington, KY, May 8, 1994-June 10, 1994(Juried)

The Incarcerated Artists Exhibition, Lexington Art League, Lexington, KY, March 28, 1993-April 18, 1993


Fourth Annual International Assemblage Artist Exhibition, Gallery 24 Berlin, Berlin, Germany, September 28, 2006- October 26, 2006(juried competition)
  -First Place(cash prize)

Incarcerated Artists: Art by Inmates of Kentucky Prisons, Wingspan
Gallery, Lexington, KY, May 24, 2002-June 16, 2002
-First Place, Fine Arts Category (Man in a Cage)
-First Place, Fine Crafts Category (Eagles)

Second Annual Incarcerated Artists Exhibition, Lexington Art 
League, Lexington, KY, May 8, 1994-June 10, 1994



Folk Art Messenger, Inside Out: Art By Prison Artist Marvin Francis, by Robert Morgan and Roberta Harding (Fall/Winter 2007)

Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), Where Is Redemption?, by Kathleen Adams(November 29, 2006 Issue)(cover story)

Louisville Courier-Journal, Captivity breeds Creativity, by Andrew Wolfson(November 19, 2006)(front page of Sunday paper)

Courier-Journal, Kentucky Prison art breaks out with acclaim,by Diane Hellenman(November 11, 2006)

Paducah Sun, Inmate Artist: Francis creates world class art while doing his time at Eddyville, by Leigh Landini Wright (November 13, 2006)(cover story)

Lexington Herald-Leader, A New Brand of Folk: Morehead Exhibit Shows Depth of Next Generation of Artists, by Benita Heath (August 15, 2004)

Folk Art News, KFAC Acquires Significant New Works (Spring 2004)

Lexington Herald-Leader, Sculpting Redeems A Murderer: Art Behind Bars, by Jim Warren( Article for the Cover Page of the Arts + Life Section) (April 4, 2004)

Lexington Herald-Leader, A Form of Release: Prisoners art allows them an outlet, by David Minton (May 19, 2002)

Popular Wood Working, featuring a Man in a Cage (w/devil on shoulder) (April 2000)

20th Century Folk Art News, A Voice From Within: The Incarcerated Artist, by E.J. Boone (March 1996)

Lexington Herald-Leader, Inmates Display Their Soft Sides, Resourcefulness in Artwork, by David Minton (April 11, 1993)


Bars to Walls: Inmate Art Expressions Hite Art Institute
August 19, 2011 - September 25, 2011
Bars to Walls: Inmate Art Expressions
Hite Art Institute

August 19, 2011 - September 25, 2011
Conduit Gallery
July 9, 2011 - August 31, 2011 
Art this Week, Interview of Phillip M. Jones, Curator, Wunderkammer Exhibit, Conduit Gallery, Dallas, Texas, Episode 116, July 14, 2011 [to view Marvin's work go to: 5.4 minutes, 9.1 minutes, 9.28 minutes, and 10 minutes]

Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau
LexTrek: Gallery Hopping Lexington, Featured Artist in Segment About Gallerie Soleils Art Exhibits, (produced by the Lexington, Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau)


Conduit Gallery
July 9, 2011 - August 31, 2011
[go to thumbnail images, go to arrow on the left, scroll until image of Marvin's work appears, then click on that image]

Death's Showcase
Morlan Gallery
October 22, 2008 - “ November 21, 2009
[scroll down to thumbnails of images, click on 1st image in Row 1 and 2nd image in Row 3]

Prison's Paper Trail: Marvin Francis
21 C Museum
September 2007- January 2008


Archives, American Folk Art Museum, New York, New York
Permanent Collection, 21C Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Permanent Collection, Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead, Kentucky


Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, Kentucky

Jim Gray, Mayor, Lexington, Kentucky

Erick and Barbara Moeller, Virginia Collectors

Arturo Sandoval, Artist and Professor of Fine Art, University of Kentucky

Jane Kaczmarek, Actress, California

Ellyn Boone, Art Dealer and Folk Art Collector, California

Robert Morgan, Artist and Exhibit Curator, Kentucky


June 4, 2011, Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead State University, Day in the Country Folk Art Sale, Morehead, KY [the sculpture Marvin donated to the live auction broke the record for the highest price paid]

Bars to Walls: Inmate Art Expressions Hite Art Institute
Students Visit Institute193
Two second grade art classes from Sayre School visited the gallery recently to see Marvin Francis's work. Their reaction was mixed. One particularly bold student declared: This art makes me want to throw up! Another little girl was so disturbed that she cried. Yes, an Institute 193 exhibition made a child cry.
Teacher Georgia Henkel initially planned the visit to demonstrate Francis's use of papier mach, a medium her students have been studying. However, the challenging subject matter of his sculptures presented another learning opportunity. I think it's important that they understand art isn't always pretty. It can also be challenging, provoking, difficult to face.