This is my story

Maryanne Chisholm

The idea of telling my story is so immense, it is almost insurmountable, overwhelming. It was painful for all involved. For me personally, it was a time of self-examination, and self-destruction.

My story was not told in the traditional sense, it was told through art.

In the beginning, I remember feeling so much anger, and so much despair. I didn’t think I would ever believe in anything, or anyone, again.

I was in prison, after being sentenced in 2005 to 27 to 32 years, for white-collar crimes another man I confessed to. While this was happening, more and more charges were piled on. I watched the real-time destruction of my character; our lives and everyone I loved. I watched people I had considered friends sell my freedom, in exchange for keeping material things.

Maryanne Chisholm's interview with PBS


My story was not told in the traditional sense, it was told through art.

The longest charge I had was for corporate board of directors insurance fraud, 19.25 years. My signature stamp was used on a form, and the only claim filed was not by me. It would have only paid in the event of my death. After this, It was actually rescinded, no damages were claimed. I was given 19.25 years for that charge.

In Arizona, ignorance of the crime is not defense of the crime. In Arizona, the CEO is culpable.

The first thing they did was take all of our money. The second thing they did was disgorge all of our attorney fees, so we had no representation. The third thing they did was file a civil lawsuit and said if we defended ourselves, it would be used against us for prosecution. We were forced to stand back and watch. The state only wanted the money, and they took it all, including our home.

My husband was not allowed in the courtroom, My entire support network were named witnesses, so they could not appear in the courtroom to support me. On the last day, I finally burst into tears, which was reported in the papers.

Through this I felt like I couldn’t even speak. So my speaking came in the form of paintings. These paintings are the story of my collection of days, of emotions. My survival and forgiveness, not only of the ones who did it to our family, but also for myself. Other people were hurt because I fought back. In the end, I realized it didn’t even matter. There was no truth that anyone cared about other than my family. It simply did not matter.

I befriended Mexican national girls so that I wouldn’t have to talk to people. I could smile, or cry, and the language barrier prevented explanations. It was healing. I did this for the majority of the years I was first there.

I spent years alone. Living indoors, not able to see or speak with my family for weeks, if not months, at a time. I thought of taking my own life, although I never would’ve done that; for it would’ve been the ultimate act of selfishness. The thoughts were always there, though.

Later, I thought of it as karmic punishment for bad choices. I always defended my innocence in the charges themselves, but I had made so many poor decisions. The most paramount of which was not seeking treatment for my mental illness, and allowing compulsive behavior to destroy my life and others. I was sick and tired of being unhappy, I did not want to be a victim.

I decided to use my time in prison to help other people. To channel that instead of hate, or rage. I painted to lift spirits, I gave paintings to people who have lost loved ones. I joined up with the ACLU to sue the department of corrections in the state of Arizona for improved medical care for prisoners. We won a settlement which did not include any money for any of us, all the settlement included was improved medical care for the prisoners in the state of Arizona. I felt that I needed this time in my life to count for something. I felt that I could show my children that they could be done even in this horrible place.

The Agony Of Faith While Life Hangs In The Balance


I created a majority of my pieces, including one recently sold called “the agony of faith, while life hangs in the balance” to convey the excruciating effort of faith required in prison. This was not a place for a person who was once an optimist. I had to make a conscious decision not to listen to anyone who is negative. (Pretty much everyone there was negative.)

I wrote a poem and painted, and drew in ink, every tiny nuance of this chaos and miserable stress in this painting. The gears were my need to be a machine in this time. I could not have human emotion, I had to be robotic. Wake up, survive till the evening…then sleep.

Underneath that, I was still a human being that was hurting, and felt that I just might not have a reason to survive after this. When my thoughts were that dark, this little voice inside me would say “No”. I forced myself to think of flying away with the victory of appeal. Forced myself to think of bright colors that existed in the real world that I couldn’t see in this gray existence. This was an expression of my soul pleading for reasons to continue to have faith. It is why I chose this piece to be the first ever exhibited.

I’ve created animated GIFs as the NFT, I wanted to memorialize these days, these emotions. I believe it has resonated with people as my page has had over 11 million views (Twitter/GIPHY) “The agony of faith, while life hangs in the balance” — This favorite piece with fans has 4.3 million views.

Though I painted over 5300 pieces, I will soon run out of the paintings I have recorded images of. It will be time to create wholly new work about life after this experience. I’ve created a road to that new path with my new exhibition and collection in the “While I was Gone” on Opensea. (Every listing has a static and animation file)

I chose to learn GAN art programming as the best way to teach my mind to create new neural pathways, to reframe the past and begin creating a future. For me, this project is gut-wrenching and intimate. It is about art, community, supporting others. I have reinvested much of what I have made back into this incredible community. I remember the relief, and the joy of feeling accepted. I want to share that feeling with others as I continue to grow and build.

This is as much of a thank you, to my friends both old and new, as it is a letter of explanation and introduction.

It is the path directly to healing, and to my heart.

I welcome you all in.


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