2021 State Fellow
Huntersville, North Carolina
Year of Award
Grant or Fellowship
Southern Prize and State Fellowship
Jewel Ham is a 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.
Both during her studies and after graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Art, Jewel's work has been shown in international galleries as well as throughout the continental United States. In her senior year alone, she participated in "Black Microcosm" at CFHILL, a gallery housing one of Sweden's first Black Contemporary exhibitions, and had her solo exhibition was curated by Derrick Adams. Since then, she has worked independently to create accessible spaces and virtual opportunities for other Black visual artists in her community and recently appeared in New American Paintings South issue.
Bell hooks describes "talking back" as a form of conscious rebellion against dominating authority. My work intends to speak with the same voice; approaching narrative portraiture as an act of resistance.
Although the indisputable necessity of financial reparations owed to the Black community may be out of my hands, I am interested in using my artwork to visualize the more immaterial realities of restitution for my community. How would it look to reclaim our time, spaces, and histories?
As the Black experience and its accompanying culture continue to define popular and consumer culture alike, our individual narratives are historically ignored and/or over-commodified, leaving many of us socially and economically displaced. Despite the continued history of social disservice, creativity remains integral to our identity. Black folk across resource brackets continue to exist as originators and tastemakers alike. With attention to the unapologetic wit and innovation inherent to the Black experience, I intend to amplify our narratives through authentic and accessible visual representation.
My work aims to undress the emotional realities that often accompany various facets of "everyday" Black life. With these sentiments hinging on casual existence, I present chaotic imagery against a backdrop of commonplace. Heavily influenced by Black popular culture and the unapologetic lyricism in Black femme rap, I manipulate wordplay, sensuality, and symbolism to aestheticize an intimate view of inner turmoil. My practice actively highlights the beauty and fury of the Black experience.