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Print Public – Mildred Howard

The aim of this project was to engage the surrounding business community on San Pablo Avenue; for me, the challenge of engagement took me beyond my initial concept — interviewing and photographing independent women business owners and proprietors — toward a population that is possibly even more difficult or rare for us to engage: the displaced and homeless. San Pablo has undergone a significant shift over the last few years, and the widening gap between those of us lucky enough to belong to Kalaʼs arts community, for example, and those who have lost their homes grows wider every day. As we drive down San Pablo in our hybrid cars, headed to the farmerʼs market for organic food, these homeless people — disturbingly, almost always men of color — may even begin to blend into the landscape. As with Ellisonʼs invisible man, the glass storefronts which serve as the backdrops of these figuresʼ lives also act as a series of distorted mirrors, disconnecting us from the reality of their humanity.

Each person that I photographed received a small stipend and spoke with me candidly about their situation; sadly, most seemed entirely resigned to life on the street. One older gentleman explained that his nickname was Toothpick because he had lost all his teeth: “itʼs really rough out here,” he said. I photographed my subjects and their surroundings (now, their homes) using an iPhone, and then re-photographed these images from an LCD screen using a 35mm camera. The resulting distortions suggest a new way of seeing and, hopefully, an antidote to the increasing invisibility of this population. After seeing them in the Kala gallery, perhaps the next time we drive down San Pablo we may actually ʻsee themʼ again for the first time.

Mildred Howard
January 2017

About Artist
Berkeley-based artist, activist, and educator Mildred Howard is best known for large scale installations invoking both collective history and personal narrative. She is a highly visible figure in the landscape of public art in the Bay Area, with Shipyard, San Francisco General Hospital, BART Parking Structure, Richmond, CA and the Sacramento International Airport. Howard has taught at major Bay Area universities and art institutions to include; Stanford University, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the California College of Arts and has conducted programs and exhibitions in locales ranging from England to Latin America, Egypt, Ghana, and Morocco. She is represented by Anglim Gilbert Gallery in San Francisco.

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