South Side Community Art Center explores the Black American community as more than a singular philosophical concept of a culture, but rather a more diversified community of multifaceted voices through a body of charcoal-based works. Howard’s socially concerned work is informed by his own lived experiences growing up on Chicago’s west side and the collective societal challenges faced by Black Americans today.
Utilizing charcoal, watercolor, and collage, Howard’s figures are typically warped, transcending time and space in their presentation, yet very attuned to the social realities and hardships experienced by Black Americans in urban environments. With close attention, Howard’s striking portrait drawings also reveal moments of glory, honor, and elevation.
Howards distinctive visual technique takes on linework and pops of color detailing typically found in contemporary graphics. As much as Howard’s work is a contemporary response to the conditions of Black Americans, his approach to social realism is in dialogue with such canonical and historical figures as Charles White and Elizabeth Catlett.
According to Howard: “I often return to my old neighborhood to record images of the people there. My figures are typically distorted to reflect the pressure and anxiety individuals feel inside and the perceptions and expectations imposed upon them by society. These images illustrate the most pressing issues of contemporary life…”
Howard adds: “During the past several years my work has embodied a moment in time, sourced by media imagery of outrage and protests. I am sensitive as well as an observer of African American portrayal by a white-centric media. The misconception that the African American community is a homogeneous community has been perpetuated by the dominant society…”
Jesse Howard has held solo exhibitions at Robert Morris University, Northeastern Illinois University, The University Club of Chicago, and Elmhurst College, to name a few. Howard has also been the recipient of awards from Purdue University, Ragdale Foundation, Arts Alliance Illinois, and Oak Park Art League.