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Watching The Masters From Prison

Prisoner Valentino Dixon draws golf holes he's never seen

April 2013

In our July 2012 issue we published the story "Drawings from Prison" about artist Valentino Dixon, who dreams up golf course landscapes from the confines of Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. More interesting than the fact Dixon has never been on a golf course or struck a golf ball, is that he's almost certainly innocent of the murder of which he's convicted.

While our story has garnered momentum for Dixon in other legal and media channels (he has a new attorney and the Golf Channel recently profiled him in the premiere episode of "In Play with Jimmy Roberts"), the artist's life hasn't changed much. He's still drawing for eight to 10 hours a day in a prison cell.

Being Masters week, we thought it an appropriate time to showcase what Dixon has been working on. To curb his appetite for reference material, last summer we mailed him a Masters Journal, the official tournament program that's stocked with stunning photography of Augusta National. You can view Dixon's Augusta-inspired drawings, and other recent works, by viewing the slideshow here.

Also worth noting is that Dixon's introduction to golf came via Augusta. It was in 2009 that Attica Warden James Conway, shortly before his retirement, brought in a photograph of the 12th hole and requested a rendering. The tranquil look of golf spoke to Dixon, and he's been drawing only courses since, burning through the green colored pencils.

While the gift to the warden was on a sheet 7"X10" paper, now Dixon has seriously upped his scale. His latest colored-pencil composition (above) is made of four 20"X30" panels, giving it a grand dimension of 5' X 3 1/3'. Restrained by the space of his cell, he can only work on one panel at a time. Clearly evoking Amen Corner, the extra putting green in the bottom right is evidence Dixon is trying his best to cohere a vision of a place of which he has only disjointed clues.

"I'm just going to keep drawing bigger," Dixon said by phone, now working on a composition of nine panels. "Once people see the true reality of my artwork, I hope they say, 'we have to give this guy a break.'"

In light of recent news coming from western New York jails, Dixon can maintain hope. In November 2012 Lynn DeJac Peters was awarded $2.7 million for being wrongfully convicted of murder. And it was just a couple weeks ago that David Ranta was exonerated of murder and released after 23 years in prison. District attorneys do make mistakes.

Inmates at Attica can access only network television, so Dixon has not seen the show that aired about him, nor does he have the prospect. "It's okay," Dixon said calmly. "A lot of the guards here have narrated it to me and it sounds like it was done real well."

But with the Masters on CBS, this weekend Dixon will get his annual glimpse of the place he thinks of every day.

Golf Artwork by Valentino Dixon
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