Last meals of death row convicts by James Reynolds

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Louis Jones Jr, selection of exotic fruits.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A variety of fruit requested by Louis Jones Jr, executed for kidnapping, rape and murder in Indiana in 2003.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by John Wayne Gacy, fried chicken and beans.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. KFC requested by John Wayne Gacy, executed in Illinois in 1994 for the rape and murder of at least 33 teenage boys between 1972 and 1978.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Victor Feguer, a single black olive.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A single olive requested by Victor Geguer, executed in Iowa in 1963 for the kidnapping and murder of a doctor.

For a while now, I’ve had this weird idea of hosting a series of macabre dinner parties which serves the last meals requested by convicts on death row. (Although I think I might need to find more twisted friends first). Seems British artist James Reynolds finds the dark psychology of these last meals as fascinating as I do. His series Last Suppers features just that: the last suppers of American death row killers, presented un-dramatically on standard orange prison trays.

Why did the inmate choose those particular foods? What do they say about that person? Why does this last supper ritual exist at all, and what does it say about our relationship between human life and food? What was it like to eat these foods knowing they were about to die? The kinds of questions provoked by Reynolds’ slick and graphic images reveals the morbid curiosity around death and crime that I think most people secretly harbor. And that, for me, is the most interesting aspect of his work: not necessarily what it reveals about the minds of criminals, but what it reveals about the dark preoccupations of our own minds.

What would you eat if you knew it was going to be your last meal?

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Lewis Gilbert, ice cream anc cones.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. Half a gallon of ice cream for Lewis Gilbert, executed in Oklahoma in 2003 for murder.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by James Hudson, coca cola and a single cream cracker.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A single cream cracker and six bottles of Coca-Cola requested by James Hudson, executed in Virginia in 2004 for the shotgun slayings of three relatives over a feud about maintenance of a shared driveway.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Jackie Barron Wilson, onion and a pack of gum.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A single onion, two cokes, gum and a beef enchilada (not pictured) requested by Jackie Barron Wilson, executed in Texas in 2006 for the rape and murder of a five year old girl.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Eddie Lee May, cigarettes and matches.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. Cigarettes and a pack of matches requested by Eddie Lee May, executed in New York in 1963 for murder and robbery.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Thomas Treshawn, doughnut and milkshake.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A doughnut and milkshake requested by Thomas Treshawn Ivey, executed in South Carolina in 2006 for the murder of a businessman and a police sergeant.

// All images via the artist’s website. For other artists working with this theme, check out Jonathon Kambouris’ Last Meals series, browse a photo essay entitled Last Suppers by Celia Shapiro; or watch a flash animation called Last Request by Mike Stanfill.

 

Elsewhere on the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things:

Salt and Pepper Shaker and Chessboard, made by Temporary Services from the designs of prisoner Angelo.

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30 thoughts on “Last meals of death row convicts by James Reynolds

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  11. I think that our fascination with last meals is more of a preoccupation that humanity has with death in general. I think they also raise the question: Would you want to know exactly when you were going to die? If you knew, you could make sure to enjoy a last meal, tie up loose ends, etc. But on the flip side, would not knowing make dying easier because you wouldn’t be anticipating it?

    Do you think they have a list of what is appropriate to request for your last meal? Such as a price limit or amount of food you can request? Also, do you think alcohol is appropriate? Because I would most likely just want a nice bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and some chocolate chip cookie dough :)

  12. I would order eggs in a basket, KFC crispy chickens, chicken heart with Indonesian rendang gravy, french fries, mashed potatoes…okay I’ll stop now.

  13. Disgusting and stupid. The death penalty in the US does not exist for your amusement. Learn about this barbaric practice instead of making idiotic attempts to create “art” from it. Wake up! If you want to comment on it in your art, work to outlaw it.

    • The “disgusting” things are the acts these animals did to their victims. There’s your barbaric behavior you bleeding heart lib.

  14. very interesting indeed.

    apropos, it seems that in Texas – supposedly as part of some brilliant cost-cutting austerity measure – they are now doing away with the last supper request. Inmates about to be executed will just eat what everyone else is eating.

    What this change says about humanity (or at least Texan, Republican-led humanity), on top of the ritual itself, I’m not sure.

    • How interesting! I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I think you’re absolutely right: it’s saying *something* about a change in humanity, even if it’s not clear what exactly. I know that Texas is the leader in executions, but how much could those meals really cost in the big picture of their huge state spending on criminal justice? (Surely a lot less than keeping them alive… :/) Do you think it’s about trying to come across as tougher on crime?

      I’m going to be pondering this all day. Thanks for the great comment.

  15. Wow, this was an amazingly interesting post. I had no idea that it was even possible to find out what death-row convicts would have requested (or even that the idea of a last supper really happened!)

    I love your idea of having a last supper dinner party, and am tempted to steal it, but finding the right guests really could be a problem. I can’t believe that no one ordered something really filling, homey and comforting (like lasagna, or pancakes…) Is it weird that I saw some sort of body-part symbolism in the assortment of fruit (mango and coconut as breasts, etc)? And a single olive?! So interesting.

    Ok, anyways, I would choose an assortment of breakfast foods, french toast, pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, and real maple syrup. With good coffee and maybe a chocolate milkshake. If I knew I was going to die, why not gorge yourself on food first?

    • That occurred to me too. I wonder if the artist purposely picked out weird requests rather than the more expected choices? I must admit, I didn’t see the body-part symbolism, but I think it is an intriguing idea. Freud would have a field day.

  16. I think I’d want a big pile of beef lo mein and sweet and sour chicken. Chinese food is kinda my thing. Really interesting photos! I figured Gacy would have been into something a little stranger.

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