Creative Name: Ren RZen
Real Name: Warren Hynson
Links / Websites: www.renrzen.com
Social Media: IG – @ren_artist_
Brief description of self: I am a spiritual being and my purpose is to create
Long Description of self: I was in prison for over twenty-eight years, and ever since I can remember, I wanted to be an artist. I remember when I lived in Virginia, I went on a field trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. I remember all my classmates running around while I stood silently in awe as I stared at the paintings on the wall. I remember going to Washington & Lee High School in Montross, Virginia, where I was Vice President of the Art Club. I remember my favorite teacher, Mrs. Holly Ransome, encouraging me to pursue art and to think about going to an art school after graduation. I remember my father telling me that, if I wanted to go to college, it would be best for me to join the military, so they would pay for my education. I did not want to be a soldier. I remember rebelling. I remember leaving my father’s house at the age of sixteen and going to my mother’s house in Maryland to live. I remember going to Gwynn Park High School and struggling to fit in. I remember my frustrations weighing heavily on me mentally, physically, and spiritually. I remember quitting school, running with the wrong crowd. I remember getting kicked out of my mother’s house because I was out of control. I did not want to be an artist anymore. I remember the struggling, the suffering, the pain, and the anger. I remember turning to alcohol to escape everything that was going on. I remember many nights ending with me being heavily intoxicated, hungry, passing out in parking lots. I remember wanting to go home, but not being welcomed. I remember when I stopped caring. I remember being a lost I remember on June 27, 1991, when I was seventeen, I was involved in a burglary in which a man, Mr. John Milton Branch, lost his life. During the burglary, I was shot point blank with a 12-gauge shotgun and knocked unconscious when the fatal bullets were fired. In the State of Maryland, it does not matter who the trigger man is when someone is murdered. By law, everyone involved in the underlying felony is as guilty as the trigger man. I was originally sentenced to Natural Life plus five years. In 2001, the same judge who sentenced me, William D. Missouri, found it in his heart to reduce my life sentence to 43 years…. I finally came home on September 24, 2019. I remember losing myself. I remember dying inside. I remember contemplating taking my own life. I remember things starting to change when I met fellow artists behind bars: Robert Farmer, Clifton Footes, William X, Delonte “Chip” Kingsberry, Larry Owens and Elvis Terron. Their artwork inspired me. Their artwork amazed me. Then I remembered being that child at the National Gallery of Art. Again, I was in awe. Today, my artwork tells the story of my journey so far in life. It tells the story of me losing myself and finding myself again. It shares my pain, my struggle, my fears, my enlightenment, my growth, and my evolution. My artwork sends the message that no matter how dark it is, there is always a spark of light to focus on. My artwork can speak for itself. So, take your time, and listen to each painting carefully.
What I create: I used to paint photorealistic portraits but I started feeling drained so I moved to more abstract work. Now I combine the two and it has injected a different positive energy in my life
Project Description: “Mental HELLth” 30”x40” mixed media on canvas
Medium & why: For texture, I actually use ceramic textile adhesive that they use to lay down tile. I build the texture and character of the piece and then I prime it all after it cures. Once everything is set, I meditate on it and start creating with paint pens, acrylics, oil pastels and anything else within reach.
Favorite part of the creative process: Losing and finding myself in a painting
The most challenging part of the process: Finding someone to model for a concept that I visualized
Inspiration for this creation: I work full time as a case manager in dc for the homeless and many are in a mental hell. Many need mental health. I used myself as the model to display what the individuals I work with go through every day
Other creative influences: Spoken word
How creativity betters my life: Art got me through 28 years in prison. Art keeps me balanced
Advice to other aspiring artists: Keep creating… with thought, words and action.
Testimonial: While in prison, I had a mini solo show at Touchstone gallery in dc and at MICA in Baltimore. If I could do that from prison, you can do it out here