Safe House, 2005-2015, Mixed-media installation with welded steel frame, vintage silver objects, and steel knives
“Oakland-based artist Mildred Howard’s mixed-media assemblages and installations often evoke memory and engage autobiography. Howard’s mother Mable was involved in politics and activism in Berkeley during the 1960s—she was instrumental in forcing BART underground in South Berkeley—and instilled in her daughter the importance of community and home. Responding to the more recent gentrification and demographic changes in the East Bay, Howard asks the provocative question: “What happens to a community when all the color leaves?” Safe House disrupts feelings of belonging and security by constructing a home that is schematic, open, and littered with feelings of love and pain. Here, Howard calls attention to both internal and external forces that threaten the home and family. Spilling beyond the metal framework, a river of silver leads to an unsettling wall of knives. What makes the home a place of safety? We could think of each of the 130 knives as a different force—ongoing cycles of displacement and racial and gender-based violence, to name a few—that threatens to unsettle the home, the family, and the community.”
text from About Things Loved: Blackness and Belonging at the Berkeley Art Museum May 17–July 21, 2019.