The Final Meals Project

Only a select few get to witness prisoner executions in Texas; fewer still get to watch the guilty (or wrongly convicted) party wolf down his last meal. Fortunately, Chicago art collective Lucky Pierre has an ongoing video installation called Final Meals, featuring volunteers eating the, uh, final meals requested by Texas death row inmates.

Based on the now-defunct last meals archive on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's website, the project is now in its eighth year and on its 145th meal, with 233 more to go. The volunteers are told "please be quiet and respectful, eat as much or as little as you want, don't look up at the camera," and "don't make loud noises or jiggle the table."

Shot in gloomy black-and-white, each video is titled with the meal in question -- i.e., "scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, jelly, butter, strawberry milkshake."

While there's a fair share of T-bones and burgers, some are surprising, such as Danny Harris's 1993 request of "god's saving grace, love, truth, peace and freedom," -- a noble sentiment, but we're guessing Harris's stomach was totally grumbling up until he got the needle. (Still, we feel worse for whichever volunteer wound up recreating James Smith's final meal in 1990: yogurt.)

We're just hoping David Castillo's epic last meal of 1998 is still up for grabs: 24 soft shell tacos, six enchiladas, six tostadas, two whole onions, five jalapenos, six cheeseburgers, one chocolate shake, a quart of milk, and a pack of Marlboros.

Barring that, we'd opt for the brain-damaged Rickey Ray Rector's last meal, which included a slice of pecan pie -- that he was saving for later.

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow