In-Sight: The Artists and Writers of San Quentin Prison – Tauno Waidla (#E-88500)

My Reflection
My Reflection by Tauno Waidla

Founded in 2015 by London-based artist Nicola White, Art Reach is a charity which gives purpose and hope to death row inmates in the US, providing art materials, regular meaningful contact, and the opportunity to exhibit their work here in the UK. To support the valuable work that Nicola is doing to support some of America’s most ostracised citizens, and to recognise the human rights of death row inmates in the US and beyond, we will be dedicating the next few weeks to the artwork and writing of the men she supports at San Quentin Prison, California.


Tauno Waidla
Tauno Waidla was sentenced to death in 1988.

Tauno Waidla is Estonian and as well as being an accomplished artist, he has written two novels – The Alfredsson Affair and The Woman of War. He has also written the Story of Finn.

In Tauno’s own words:

“If I were a Buddhist, I would believe I was a famous artist in a previous life, probably.  I began drawing and painting before my first memory, according to photos taken by the old man who raised me practically alone.

My great uncle Gunnar was a photographer renowned in our homeland, Estonia.  I was born there in 1967.  Thanks to him, my life in Tallinn was beautiful, despite the Soviet occupation.  Always taking me with him everywhere, often to places that seemed magical, such as theatres, art studios, he patiently groomed me for a job like his, for that wonderful way of life.

Then the Soviets conscripted me.  In the army I absolutely hated, knowing they could send me to Afghanistan, I decided to seize an opportunity to defect in Germany.  On a foggy night I can still remember vividly, chased by bloodthirsty dogs, fearing a bullet would find me, I crossed the Iron Curtain.

Ironic that it fell only a few years later. My beloved homeland regained its sovereignty soon thereafter.  I was already on California’s death row.

How on Earth did such things happen, that is a question I have quit asking myself.  Painting, or writing novels, I have managed to keep dreaming, picturing myself producing works of art in Europe as Finn the mysterious Estonian.”

Tauno Waidla
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974

Be sure to pop along to THE ART OF TRANSFORMATION: Redemption versus Death at the Old Deptford Cinema before the end of April to witness in full effect the many talents of San Quentin’s death row artists.


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Tickled Inc. joins together a unique pool of writers and artists from diverse backgrounds, bringing into focus through their work and personal experiences the issues that affect us in the contemporary world.