Still Life

Contemplating temporality, incarceration, and freedom.

artist Phillip Adams

Still Life by Phillip Adams. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Project Images 

  • Still Life mural dedication. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Assistant artist Omar Robinson works on the mural. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Guild Coordinator Dawan Williams and the Mural Arts Guild speak at the dedication. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lead Artist Phillip Adams works on the mural. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Still Life by Phillip Adams. Photo by Steve Weinik.

About the Project 

Philadelphia is the global leader in juvenile life sentencing without parole, and this new mural from artist Phillip Adams looks candidly at the devastating effect on individual lives through the lens of traditional still-life painting. Adams and instructors from the Barnes Foundation (Bill Perthes and Christine Stoughton) worked closely with the Restorative Justice Guild and SCI Graterford workshop participants—developing the mural design after a poignant art history workshop on the concept of the still life in the context of the criminal justice system. Traditional “vanitas” or still-life paintings symbolize ephemerality and futility, and after viewing many of these artworks in the Barnes collection, participants struck up a conversation on stolen time and frozen potential.


Still Life invites viewers to slow down and contemplate temporality, incarceration, and freedom, while challenging mainstream ideas about who gets to make and experience fine art. The design includes a skull, inspired by the work of Cezanne and created by a participant at Graterford. Adams was assisted by artist Santiago Galeas and former Guild member Omar Robinson.


Connelly Foundation


Barnes Foundation
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
SCI Graterford
City of Philadelphia