Jewel Ham is a 2020 Howard University alumni and visual artist who works through painting, digital design, and apparel. Within her painting practice, Jewel creates boldly allegorical narratives that rest between portraiture and still life. She seeks to create compelling portrayals of emotional experiences through female protagonists and powerful color choices. Particularly, Jewel’s heavy use of crimson creates a throughline of passionate emotion that pulls the viewer towards these protagonists. Jewel’s work is influenced by Emma Amos & Barkley Hendricks, artistic ancestors whom Jewel has chosen for herself in an effort to find her own place in the predominantly white and Western art historical canon. Jewel also takes inspiration from the female rappers whose voices and attitude she surrounds herself with as she paints. The pieces featured in the WE BUILT THIS HOUSE exhibition–i brought you into this world, Recognition, Heartfelt, and the hand that feeds you–form a sampling of the dramatic, illustrative scenes found in Jewel’s portfolio. In particular, Recognition is a pointed self portrait that marks Jewel’s graduation while capturing the complex blend of pride, apathy, and frustration experienced by the class of 2020. Ham succinctly defines the moment by cropping the text of her subject’s university t-shirt to read “WAR.” This charge, combined with more of Jewel’s sharp, attitude-driven narrative work, provides a necessary audacity to WE BUILT THIS HOUSE, unabashedly rebuking the political turmoil which embroils the city of DC.
- Carolina Gaillard (VCU Craft/Material Studies, BFA 2021)
Jewel Ham is a multimedia visual artist interested in using her work as a means of reparation. She is passionate about increasing accessibility to visual arts in Black and brown communities, as well as utilizing visual art as a means of outreach, activism, and empowerment. Backed with a Fine Arts education from Howard University, her practice has been transformative in recent years. As a painter, she juxtaposes elements of portraiture and still-life to visually narrate non-physical emotional states. Collaging these elements with careful attention to skin, texture and color, she creates a sense of visual empathy between viewers and painted figures. While many of her works contain facets of fantasy, these symbols are a means of depicting emotionality and other non-tangible expressions, furthering the nonfictionality of the work. Jewel intends to use her work to take up space, further amplifying narratives often overlooked and over-commodified in her community.