(b. 1998, Charlotte; living and working in Brooklyn)
Jewel Ham is an interdisciplinary artist, interested in exploring interactivity, dynamic portrayals of the Black interior, and art as a means of reparation and self-definition, in contrast to constraints placed by capitalism and negative media portrayals. Her paintings utilize vibrant reds to depict the joys of community formation for Black femme-presenting individuals, while also conveying the blood and hardship experienced by her ancestors. Ham is a Summa Cum Laude Fine Arts graduate from Howard University (2020). Recent exhibitions featuring Ham’s work include keep it cute (Cierra Britton Gallery, New York City, 2022), i said what i said (Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago, 2022), and Seduction of Self-Destruction (Eubie Blake Center, Baltimore, 2020). She has developed digital designs with the Smithsonian Institution and AMC, in addition to aiding in the development of the interactive “Spotify Wrapped” feature. She also works in art education, both through a self-organized community volunteering program and through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was named a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Visual Arts Scholar (2017). She has received a South Arts State Fellowship (2021), the Howard University Annual Student Showcase First Place Award (2020), and a Scholastic Gold Key (2015).
WORK IN THE EXHIBITION
Jewel Ham’s body of work seeks to recreate the dynamism of joy and struggle within the Black interior, extending beyond limiting media portrayals through reclamations that highlight Black interiority. In her keep it cute series, Ham’s portraits explore the energy required to “keep it cute.” This series juxtaposes high-energy scenes of celebration within community with depictions of the behind-the-scenes practices of physical and mental maintenance necessary to keep up a glamorous exterior. Challenging conventional European views of Black as a monolithic color with little dimension, Ham renders her figures in reds, simultaneously conveying frustration in the face of constraining perspectives and energy through liberation and vibrance. Ham’s depictions of socialization and self-care resist conventional understandings of these practices as defined by capitalism and social media. Within the nightclub space of black & wild, the central figure rejects the label "black and wild" with an unapologetic middle finger. Simultaneously, the music playing forms a soundtrack through which she can self-liberate and enjoy being “wild” on her own terms.