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SF Chronicle Columnist Leah Garchik on “Mildred Howard: Spirit and Matter”

We are elated that “Mildred Howard: Spirit and Matter” has garnered such extensive media coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle has published a third piece on the exhibition; the newspaper’s latest contribution comes from columnist Leah Garchik, who penned her thoughts on Howard’s work. “Spirit and Matter” runs through May 24 in the Main and West Galleries.

San Francisco Chronicle: Leah Garchik, April 23, 2015

We were away last month when “Mildred Howard: Spirit and Matter” opened at the Richmond Art Center, so we went instead to the Sunday, April 19, walk-through conducted by curator Jan Wurm. The art center is a roomy facility that offers classes in all kinds of art forms. Its exhibition space is airy and bright, and in the lobby Wurm had set out coffee and refreshments for the art lovers. It all felt very welcoming.

Howard was born in 1945, the youngest child in a large African American family that came up from Texas to work in the shipyards during the war. Her parents were political, as is she. They were antique dealers, who passed along to their daughter their skills at making things, fixing things, using and restoring. The hand skills are reflected in the work, as well as the reverence for history and hope for the future. The show includes direct references to the past (“A Salute to Sojourner: Still Water Run Deep” includes a first edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” stitched through its pages) — as well as the present (“Worldly Matters” includes a Barack Obama action figure with a globe). Howard is as adept at carpentry and sewing as she is at painting and sculpture, and she uses those skills in service of her ends.

The installation “Safe House,” created for the opening exhibition of MoAD, dominates the room at the Richmond exhibition. In front of a wall of knives, an array of silver servers, pots and platters is sprawled in a metal house. Noting is safe, the piece — which makes reference to violence against women — says. But in Howard’s world, the unsafe beckons. The exhibition is open through May 24.


 

Leah Garchik Column

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