Sharon Daniel

Sharon Daniel (based in San Francisco, CA) creates interactive documentary artworks that address issues of social, racial, and environmental injustice. Her works focusing on mass incarceration and the criminal justice system often feature the American flagas a symbol of nationalism and nostalgia that obscures the real history of the nation.

Click here for an interactive transcript of this interview

Undoing Time/PLEDGE, 2013

Image of installation with two U.S. flags and a video
Undoing Time/PLEDGE, 2013
Mixed-media installation with video
Video: 8:36 minutes
Courtesy of the artist

Undoing Time/PLEDGE is a documentary video and installation created in collaboration with Beverly Henry, formerly imprisoned at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. During her incarceration, Henry's job was to produce American flags for sixty-five cents an hour. In the video, Henry slowly undoes the stitches of one of these flags, while she describes the obstacles to equality and democracy she has encountered. Accompanying the video are two flags created in the prison factory and embroidered with text Henry wrote in 2006 on the 254th anniversary of Betsy Ross’s birth.

Excessive Force

Image of installation with three embroidered U.S. Flags
Undoing Time/Amends/Excessive Force, 2020
Embroidered American flag
Courtesy of the artist

The U.S. flag in Undoing Time/Amends/Excessive Force, purchased from the California Prison Authority and made by people incarcerated in California, is embroidered it with two contradictory texts: the Fourth Amendment, which protects against “unreasonable search and seizures,” and a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of “stop and frisk” police practices. The fifty stars on the flag each bear the name, age, location, and date of death of an unarmed Black man or woman murdered by police. The flag is hung upside down as a signal of distress.


black screen of a website with white text saying 'no medical at this institution'.
Exposed, 2020
Online Digital Project

EXPOSED is an online artwork that documents the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, and detention centers across the U.S. from the perspective of incarcerated people, their communities, and facility staff. Consisting of audio interviews with folks currently incarcerated as well as information and statistics gleaned from online publications and broadcasts, EXPOSED serves as a public record and evolving social history of the pandemic's impact on incarcerated people, revealing the consequences of the overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe environments they are forced to inhabit.
View at


Portrait of Sharon Daniel

Sharon Daniel’s work has been exhibited in museums, biennials, and festivals including San José Art Museum, CA; California College of the Arts, CA; Schmidt Center Gallery, Boca Raton, FL; Sheffield Doc|Fest, UK; and STUK Kunstencentrum, BEI; WRO Media Art Biennial, Poland; Artefact, Belgium; Transmediale 08, Germany; the Lincoln Center Festival, New York; the Corcoran Biennial, Washington D.C., and others. Her essays have been published in books including Female Authorship and the Documentary Image (2018); Context Providers (2011); Database Aesthetics (2007); and Sarai Reader05, as well as in professional journals such as ASAP Journal; Cinema Journal; Leonardo; Studies in Documentary Film; and Springerin. Daniel was honored with a Webby Award in 2008 and the Rockefeller/Tribeca Film Festival New Media Fellowship in 2009. In 2015-2016 she was named in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts “YBCA 100”— a list of “the creative minds, makers, and pioneers that are asking the questions and making the provocations that will shape the future of American culture.” In 2017, she was a Fulbright Scholar at Ulster University in art, design and the built environment. Daniel is a professor in the Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Suggested Reading

  1. Alexander, Michelle. 2012. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.
  2. Daniel, Sharon. “Public Secrets/Secret Publics.” Springerin Magazine, no. 2 (2008).
  3. Daniel, Sharon. “The Blindness of Whiteness and the Labour of the Negative.” Kunstlicht, Radical Imaginings: Art Practices of/for Justice 40, no. 1–2 (2019): 18–30.