Courtney Cone

Courtney Cone (she/her) is an Austin-based, interdisciplinary artist who plumbs experiences of trauma and horror through irreverent, dark humor. Her practice moves between painting, sculpture, ceramics, video, and performance. She draws on personal history and lived experience— using her time spent in a Texas prison as a point- of-departure—to produce works that explore dehumanization, abjection, and speak to the visceral horrors of incarceration.

Cone received a 2019 Right of Return USA Fellowship to support her performance, Ain’t No Orange in Texas: The Variety Show. She partnered with the Texas Center for Justice and Equity (formerly Texas Criminal Justice Coalition) and worked with three formerly incarcerated women, who shared their experience through spoken word, improv sketches, and cooking demonstrations. Cone hosted the variety show as Officer Cheatham, a satirical prison guard. Each woman’s story offered knowledge that the audience was unfamiliar, while Officer Cheatham created intrusions and antagonized the performers. Officer Cheatham’s callous attitude upset the audience— they booed her. At the conclusion of each event, audience members approached the performers to express their support and concern regarding the condition in prisons and engaged in discussions about criminal justice reform. The two-day event took place at The Museum of Human Achievement (MoHA) in Austin, TX.

In 2022, Cone received an Individual Artist Grant from Art for Justice to support the production of a new body of work that initiates coalition building among women, LGTBQ+, non-binary people—free and incarcerated—within two Texas metroplexes, Austin and San Antonio. Cone’s goal is to raise awareness among allies in the “free world” about the threats to body autonomy that system-impacted people have long endured, and to increase empathy and public interest in these issues by connecting them to the current, large-scale deterioration of human rights in our society.

Cone received a BFA in Painting from Texas State University (2015) and an MFA in Art from California Institute of the Arts (2017). She is a faculty member at Texas State University, and recently taught at Austin Community College.

Her work has been exhibited nationally; her first solo exhibition, Processed, was shown at Gray Contemporary in Houston, TX (2020). Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at venues such as Panel LA, Los Angeles, CA; ltd Los Angeles (Hollywood Hills House) Los Angeles, CA; Keystone Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA; Eisentrager-Howard Gallery, Lincoln, NE; and at virtual venues such as Art At A Time Like This.

Right of Return Project

Ain’t No Orange in Texas: The Variety Show

Ain’t No Orange in Texas: The Variety Show is a revealing, bizarre, humorous, and enlightening portrayal of women’s incarcerated experience, performed by system-impacted women. The two-day performance event featured spoken word, prison cooking demonstrations, and other improvised prison demos/sketches.