Barry McNamara  |  Published October 18, 2023

‘American Questions – No Answers’

Reception for featured artist Jesse Howard is Oct. 24; works focus on plight of the homeless and the disenfranchised.

JESSE HOWARD: The artist will be on campus Oct. 24 to discuss his work, which is currently on dis... JESSE HOWARD: The artist will be on campus Oct. 24 to discuss his work, which is currently on display in the Len. G. Everett Gallery in Hewes Library.MONMOUTH, Ill. – An artist whose work confronts “the most pressing issues of contemporary life” will be on Monmouth College’s campus Oct. 24 to discuss his current exhibition in the Len G. Everett Gallery in Hewes Library.

Jesse Howard’s “American Questions – No Answers” will be on display through Nov. 3 in the gallery, which is on the upper floor of the library. A reception for Howard will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 24, and Howard’s gallery talk will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The exhibit, reception and talk are all free and open to the public.

Since the 1980s, Howard’s socially concerned drawings have focused on the plight of the homeless and the disenfranchised, particularly African Americans in urban environments. Informed by his own unsettling upbringing on Chicago’s west side and his lived experience as a Black man, Howard is sensitive to the way these populations are viewed, treated, and often dismissed.

“African Americans today are faced with centuries of myths and misguided perceptions perpetuated by the dominant culture – to a point they have reached a fever pitch across the country.” Jesse Howard

“African Americans today are faced with centuries of myths and misguided perceptions perpetuated by the dominant culture – to a point they have reached a fever pitch across the country,” he said. “At times, the African American male is a prisoner within himself and trapped in his neighborhood, usually because of his race or circumstance. One could argue that he was dead before birth.”

Howard often returns to his old neighborhood to record images of the people there. The pieces featured in the Monmouth exhibit include charcoal, watercolor and collage.

“My figures are typically distorted to reflect the pressure and anxiety individuals feel inside and the perceptions and expectations imposed upon them by society,” he said. “These images illustrate the most pressing issues of contemporary life.”

Howard’s solo exhibition at Monmouth is one of four he’ll have this year. A frequent leader of drawing workshops at Chicago-area colleges and high schools, Howard was the Grand Prize winner of Purdue University’s National Drawing Exhibition. A year later, he was a featured artist in the 2018 documentary The Color of Art. Directed by David Weatherby, the documentary won the Black Film Excellence Award.

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