Artist Spotlight: Mildred Howard

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In the Line of Fire by: Mildred Howard

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6639 by:Mildred Howard

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

The enslavement and systematic murder of African Americans doesn’t get nearly as much attention from the mainstream art world as many other human rights atrocities, such as the Hebrew Holocaust. Mildred Howard’s art throws a spotlight on this issue by viewing it through a historical, international and at times personal perspective.

After hosting shows in Berlin, Cairo, London and New York most artists would settle in one of these international hubs for a life artistic glitz and glamor. A Berkley native, mixed media and landscape artist, Howard has done the complete opposite by becoming one of the most dedicated leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area arts scene.

On her daily walk to Berkley High School, some of Howard’s fondest memories come from smelling the surrounding gardens. As Executive Director of Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard project, Howard seeks to help local teenagers and kids learn how to garden and stay out of trouble in the process.

The project was founded by local food movement legend, Chef Alice Waters. Kids are taught gardening and about how food affects their communities and the environment. It was Waters herself who tapped Howard for the Executive Director role, for her continual work as a spacial artist and leadership of the Oakland Exploratorium museum.

Her body of work reflects her beliefs in things growing from one another and becoming organically intertwined. Her famous glass bottle house works came to her in a dream and by no accident resemble plantation slave quarters. One her most well known glass houses, the blue bottle house was inspired by the death of her son.

She heard of a young boy who grew up in a home surrounded by glass bottles coming out of the ground. He thought that the bottle grew from the soil, like plants because he did not know enough about gardening. One day she awoke and knew that all she needed glass bottles to build these sheds.

Her work, In the Line of Fire, illustrates the face of a young African American WWII G.I. who went on to fight for American freedoms that he would never have himself. Other powerful themes included a room full of thousands of eggs to symbolize the lives lost in The Middle Passage.

Going from exploring some of the darkest chapters in human history to teaching and inspiring new generations, it seems that Howard’s body of work continues to come full circle.

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