Click on objects to see image


ntil recently, paño art has had a low profile outside of prison. Outside, paños lost the value they once had within the prison system, becoming souvenirs of prison life meaningful only to the ex-inmate and his or her associates, not to society at large.

While traditionally a Chicano prison art form, other ethnic groups now make paños and many Chicano youths who have never been to prison use the handkerchief as their canvas.

Today, paños have found a wider audience in art galleries, community centers and museums. Knowing their work might be exhibited or sold, paño artists are careful to sign their pieces, whereas before they were largely anonymous. Paños have also become commercialized. T-shirts are now marketed featuring paño designs, and folk art galleries sell paños to art collectors.


©1997 Museum of International
Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico