Jess Howard

previously an Arts section writer
Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 13.58.48
A hopeless romantic, art history and literature student, who would spend her entire life reading and drinking coffee if she could. A regular writer for the UEA Tab, Jess’s love for modern art is thrusting her forward to make sure no one forgets how vital the arts are to keeping the world turning.

Articles:

(11.06.17) – Nineties sitcoms, LGBTQ+ Friend or Foe?

As a nineties baby, I grew up with Friends. There’s seldom a day where I make it through a 24 hour period without adding in a few quotes from it, be it “PIVOT” or “WE WERE ON A BREAK”, and any show that involves a cameo from Bruce Willis is fine by me. This show was my life.

But lately I’ve been thinking about how it applies to my life today as a pansexual woman. Does this nineties/noughties classic represent an accepting attitude towards homosexuality at the turn of the century? Or does it contain strident homophobia disguised as a casual joke?

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(18.10.16) – Maths Versus Monet

Last week it was announced that AQA, the last exam board to offer art history as an A level subject, has removed the course from its curriculum. The decision to remove the subject from A Level course choices means future students will no longer be able to study the subject at this level. A spokesman from the board said that the decision to remove the subject had “nothing to do with the importance of history of art”, but I find this hard to believe.

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(21.09.16) – 365 Days Without Change – How the Arts Affect Our Engagement with Conflict

Content warning: this article contains upsetting images.

In 2015 I wrote an article on an image of a Syrian child’s lifeless body being lifted out of the sea on a beach close to a Turkish resort. The photograph shocked people around the world at the time. It demonstrated the severity of the Syrian conflict, as the child in the photograph, and his family along with him, had been attempting to travel to Greece to seek refuge. September sees the anniversary of the photograph being taken, but how have our attitudes to photography and conflict changed in the past year?

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(23.08.16) – Cisgendered or Nothing – The Absence of LGBTQ+ Characters in Film

Earlier this month, Warner Bros and DC released their latest superhero film Suicide Squad, sending mixed reactions across the internet as viewers commented on the film’s plot line and the sexualisation of squad member Harley Quinn. Audience and critics’ opinions aside, what is explicitly noticeable within the film is the lack of LGBTQ+ characters, such as DC character Batwoman, for example if Batman can make a cameo, why not her? In a world with superheroes, Killer Crocs and witches, why are production companies still refusing to feature LGBTQ characters in their films?

(26.07.16) – Shock, Awe, Boredom – Pubic Hair in Art and Fashion

I’ve written articles focusing on body hair before, with my previous article specifically discussing pubic hair. I was questioning why we, as a twentyfirst century audience, have such a problem with modern day depictions of perfectly natural hair growth in a way that, historically, viewers haven’t always had a problem with. Since then, Sarah Louise Bryan has gone a step further, and designed and produced an outfit consisting of a bra and floor length skirt, both made entirely out of pubic hair.

Bryan created the dress after spending six months collecting pubic hair, in a bid to create an item of clothing more shocking and scandalous than the infamous meat dress that singer and performer Lady Gaga wore to the MTV video music awards in 2010. “I really wanted the world’s most unique and disgusting design” said Bryan “so when someone sees a design they know it was me instantly”. But should we consider the creation an act of attention grabbing media fodder, or address and analyse what the creation, and the media’s reaction, says about our attitudes to body hair as a whole?

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(28.06.16) – Money and Mona Lisa – The Value of Art

My younger brother is 14, and with that is coming all manner of traditional 14 year old behaviours. Sulking, door slamming, wearing a can of Lynx per day, and spending eternity glued to his Xbox. In addition to this, he has also discovered the wonderful world of procrastinating on YouTube, and so we are being treated to a delightful array of narration on a daily basis.

During one particular conversation revolving around a group of people who seem to sit and chat rubbish for hours, with one relevant fact thrown in for good measure, he asked why the Mona Lisa was such a valuable painting. An interested and insightful question, but one we only arrived upon after he asked if Leonardo DiCaprio was around during the Renaissance period.

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(15.06.16) – Selfies and Self-Portraits

After finding myself caught in a particularly upsetting example of British weather on Monday afternoon, I decided my time hiding from the rain would be best spent nosing round the Impressionist collection currently held in the Courtauld gallery. After fanning away the tears that inexplicably began to spring from my eyes as I stood in front of Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folie-Bergère, I stood for a while to look at Vincent Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, painted shortly after the artist removed his own right ear.

Once I had gotten over my annoyance at the people taking photos of the works around them on their smart phones, instead of just looking at them – which I’m sure could make up another article entirely – I continued to look at the painting, the first real piece of Impressionist art I think I have ever seen in person.

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(07.06.16) – Sweet Transvestite? Reproducing Films in 2016

When it comes to film remakes, many viewers are very protective of their original cinematic loves. In the same way that people react to novels being turned into films, many feel that film scripts should be left well alone, with the common opinion being that it was the original script, cast, and production that made their old favourites work so well. However, as with any form of art, films are constantly ageing, and so new perspectives are constantly being developed and incorporated.

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(17.05.16) – High versus Low Art: What Deserve A Space in The Gallery?

Often, we start out with an initial opinion of a topic, event or article, and end up completely changing sides once we have engaged in an in-depth exploration, and this is exactly what has happened with an article I recently read.

In early May 2016, a particularly scathing opinion piece was written by Guardian journalist Jonathan Jones regarding the presence of magazine covers in gallery spaces. The article, titled ‘Kate’s Vogue shots shouldn’t be in a gallery. They’re not art.’ discusses Jones’ opinions on whether or not photographs of Kate Middleton have the right to be hanged in The National Portrait Gallery. Regardless of how we feel about the photographs, or indeed the monarchy, it does raise an important question. Namely, what constitutes high or low art, and what is deserving of exhibition space.

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(05.04.16) – The Power of Artistic Reconstruction

Since Daesh first made itself known at the turn of the 21st century, a significant number of religious and historical buildings, artefacts and objects of cultural significance have been destroyed, in what the Secretary-General of The United Nations Ban Ki-moon once described as ‘a war crime’. In response to this, a series of art works have been created to replicate the objects that have been destroyed since Daesh first established itself, which leads us to consider the ways in which artistic reconstruction benefits culture and society.

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(26.03.16) – Be My Rock? Tracey Emin and the Objectum-Sexual Community

This week Tracey Emin – creator of the infamous My Bed piece – announced that she had married a rock. The press, understandably, reacted vehemently, with many rolling their eyes at Emin’s well-known performance artist ways, or mocking her for doing something so seemingly comical. What the press have failed to discuss is what Emin’s recent marriage, and the backlash she has received, has done for people who identify as objectum sexual.

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(22.03.16) – Vaginal Knitting, Girl on Girl Crime?

In 2013, performance artist Casey Jenkins from Melbourne, Australia, caused a storm on the internet by knitting for 28 days in a gallery space using wool she had inserted into her vagina. The piece was titled Casting Off My Womb, but was christened Vaginal Knitting by the press. Almost 3 years later, Jenkins is knitting from her vagina once more, producing a commentary on the abuse she received when her original piece went viral.

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(26.01.16) – Disney Princesses Redesigned As …. Patronising And Discriminatory

The majority of us will have seen articles featuring ‘Disney princesses redesigned as’. They’ve been tattooed, hungover and turned into pin ups. This time, however, writer and illustrator combo Danielle Sepulveres  and Maritza Lugo have teamed up to produce a cartoon featuring Disney princesses visiting the gynaecologist, to promote sexual health awareness and cervical cancer. I have previously discussed why I disagree with cartoons being used to highlight sensitive issues, and this example is no exception.

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(12.01.16) – Cartoons and Consent

You would think that consent is a straightforward issue. If someone does not want to have sex with you, or is not able to tell you they want to have sex with you, then don’t have sex with them. Period. But, sadly, this is not always the case, and there is often a haze and grey area around the issue. So, to clear up any confusion, a number of artists have taken to drawing step by step analogies about the issue, in attempts to make it as clear as possible. But my question is: are we reducing a dangerous issue to nothing more than a doodle?

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(04.01.16) – Body Hair In Art History And Modern Culture

Owing to a particularly traumatic experience with a bottle of hair removal cream, I recently started thinking about body hair. For years fashion photographs have been telling us that men and women alike should trim, wax, shave, and pluck in order to look beautiful and presentable. This opinion is reflected in the visual arts of today, with models seldom seen with body hair and advertising campaigns even choosing to show women shaving a hair free leg, to prevent the ultimate taboo of showing body hair in the ad itself. Today it seems body hair is off the menu, but how does this compare to artistic examples throughout history?

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(29.12.15) – Fashion And Food, The French Government Attack Eating Disorders Head On

While some may see it as a separate entity altogether, fashion is unquestionably a form of art. From the creative process that designers progress through to create high fashion pieces, to the advertising campaigns used to sell them, fashion design influences the masses. But this is where the industry often encounters conflict: thousands of people are being diagnosed with eating disorders each year, and many are pointing their fingers at the fashion industry, for its insinuation that thinness represents the epitome of beauty.

In an attempt to combat this, France recently passed a bill stating that fashion models must prove they are healthy weight in order to appear on runways and in advertising campaigns. Failure to comply with this new ruling could lead to up to 6 months in prison and a £54,000 fine. Further more, magazines and advertising campaigns will now be required to make it clear to consumers that their images have been retouched. The purpose of this bill is to attempt to dramatically decrease the percentage of people in the country who develop anorexia, but is this going to work?

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(21.12.15) – Self Care: Adult Colouring Books

A year ago, hearing the words adult colouring books would have conjured up bizarre images of decorating mildly pornographic imagery with gel pens and coloured pencils. Fast forward to the end of 2015 and colouring books designed specifically for adults has become the new craze. From Harry Potter-themed books to those focused on the 1960s, almost everyone has encountered this new fad at some point. But where does it stem from, and does it really work?

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(15.12.15) – Kylie Jenner’s Wheelchair Photoshoot

The Kardashian/Jenner family are rarely far from the press. From Caitlyn Jenner’s sensational Vanity Fair cover early this year, to the recent birth of Saint West, they are seldom out of the news. Recently, it has been model and the youngest of the Kardashian sisters, Kylie Jenner, who has been in the limelight.

Causing controversy by taking part in a photoshoot in which she posed passive and sexually in a gold wheelchair, Jenner’s photoshoot, directed by photographer Steven Klein, and accompanying interview, were part of a feature in Interview magazine, and it is explicitly clear why the internet has reacted in such a passionate and infuriated way.

(01.11.15) – Art: Why Does it Matter?

With the threat of terrorist attacks and war seeming to dominate every newspaper front page and website, it can be easy to ask if we should still place any importance on the visual arts. With daily news telling us that more and more people are dying, starving, or becoming homeless, many may ask if we should concern ourselves with art at all. But, when we really consider it, we can see that an aversion to what may be deemed frivolous and unnecessary is actually completely impossible.

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(07.11.15) – Body Art In The Work Place

Covering the body with tattoos has been a tradition among multiple socio-economic groups for centuries. From identification to decoration, the act of adorning the skin with ink is in no way novel or unique. Day to day it is incredibly common to see tattoos on people of all ages, from the first tattoo immediately after the 18th birthday, to the person in their mid forties with an exquisite and elaborate full sleeve. In short, ink is everywhere.

Yet the stigma attached to visual tattoos in the work place shows minimal chance of disappearing. When I started my first ‘proper’ job, I was told that tattoos were not allowed to be visible, and even today, ten pieces of ink later, I find myself wearing long sleeves to interviews and asking if my potential employer would like me to cover them up. Even I, a woman who has long loved body art in all of its forms, assume that the stigma is still attached.

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(20.10.15) – Pornography as Art

Earlier on this month, Playboy magazine announced that their publication will no longer be featuring nudity as of March 2016. Citing the rise of easy access to internet pornography, the company has decided to pull their famous images from the publication in a bid to reconcile their disintegrating readership with their increasing online audience, which went nudity free at the end of last year.

Playboy made a name for itself during the 1950s, when sex and nudity where far less mainstream and far more taboo. Having previously worked for Esquire, after leaving due to a financial disagreement (when he was denied a raise of $5) founder Hugh Hefner set up the publication from his home in Chicago, Illinois. Unsure as to whether or not the publication would thrive, the first magazine was undated in case a second issue was not produced. Having purchased a nude image of film star Marilyn Monroe, taken before she had found success in the entertainment industry, Hefner placed it on the cover. As we now know, the magazine was to be a huge success.’

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(28.09.15) – The Writing of a Refugee

‘At the end of last month, an image of a refugee in Beirut appearing to be selling a handful of biros, with his young daughter held to his chest, went viral. The image was captured and tweeted by activist Gissur Simonarson, whose Twitter feed was then flooded with requests for him to identify the pair. Simonarson quickly set up #BuyPens to find them, and within thirty minutes they were identified as Abdul Halim Attar, a single father of two, and his daughter Reem.

After identifying Abdul, through a woman who saw him daily around his house, Simonarson then set about organising a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com, with the aim of raising funds for him and his family. Since the date this article was written the campaign has raised $190,824, completely overtaking the original target of $5,000. The amount of money that has been raised is incredible, and will completely change the lives of Abdul and his children.’

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(08.09.15) – What Can a Photograph Tell Us About Humanity?

‘In my last article for The Norwich Radical I talked about risks, the risks of those who disregard their personal safety, instead preferring to take time to photographs of death, danger and carnage on their smart phones. This article is going to continue in a similar vein, focusing on the risks that individuals are willing to take, but for far different reasons. This week I will focus on the dangers that thousands of refugees are currently encountering, as a means escaping the war and conflict in their home countries.’

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(25.08.15) – Personal Media: Risk or Responsibility?

‘It’s easy to say that a vast percentage of the Western world is able to access the internet on a daily basis. Laptops, computers, tablets – the list of accessibility is almost endless. And then, of course, we have smart phones. A hand held device that allows you to become a researcher, writer or photographer at the swipe of a thumb. Our hands have control of who we want to be, what we want to see, and when we want to see it. Be it on a train, buses or during our walk to Starbucks for our morning latte.

Personally, embarrassingly, I don’t think I could function without my phone. As a writer I am constantly jotting down article ideas or passages for potential short stories. Some stay, some are discarded, but the majority of them are stowed away in the Pages app on my iPhone. I fall into the same category as everyone else when it comes to my pocket-sized, electronic best friend.’

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(15.08.15) – What message are we saying when we leak celebrity nudes?

‘Recently, Kim Kardashian posted a naked selfie on Instagram to prove that she was having her second child with Kanye West, after speculative claims that she was too thin to be pregnant. Demi Moore famously posed nude for photographer Annie Leibovitz whilst 7 months pregnant with her daughter Scout, for the cover of Vanity Fair, and Playboy magazine has been photographing naked women for their publication for years. Cosmopolitan even features a nude male photo in their monthly magazine, to raise awareness for testicular cancer.

These photographs are fully consensual, and it was the individual’s choice to pose for these picture. However, it is not uncommon for these types of images to be posted without consent.’

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(01.08.15) – The Artist as the Celebrity

‘Artistic expression is primarily focused on creation. Regardless of an artist’s political, financial, social, or moral agenda, they are using a creative process to express their thoughts and views. Quite simply, art is creation.

However, a recent news story brought to light the act of destruction in creativity. With Turner prize winning video artist Douglas Gordon attacking Manchester’s newly built HOME theatre with an axe, causing excessive damage to the £25,000,000 theatre.’

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(30.06.15) – Social Media, Appropriation, and the Art World

‘Artistic appropriation is in no way a new phenomenon. Painters and sculptors have been reproducing their own versions of classic art works for centuries. Picasso for instance, took his own stance in the 1950’s when he appropriated Eugene Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers, by painting the women from behind. And Andy Warhol famously lost a lawsuit in the 1960’s over the design of his Flowers piece. But how does the art world address this kind of appropriation when an image has been sourced directly?’

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(04.06.15) – Introducing Caitlyn Jenner

Disclaimer: mentions sexual assault.

Caitlyn Jenner, who rose to fame as the stepfather of the elder Kardashian sisters, and father to Chris Jenner’s two youngest children Kendall and Kylie, revealed herself to the world this week in a stunning cover photo for Vanity Fair. Shot by world renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, the July cover finalises Jenner’s transformation from former decathlete gold medal winner, to beautiful woman. Dressed in lingerie and posing in a style reminiscent of the late Marilyn Monroe, the shot is respectable yet coy, showing the world that Caitlyn has finally physically become the woman she was born to be.’

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(08.05.15) – The Met Gala: A Demonstration of Wealth or Ignorance?

Disclaimer: article discusses sensitive topics — features forced abortion.

The annual Met ball returned to New York this week. Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the event charges ticket prices from upwards of £900, all in aid of The Met Costume Institute that opened in the 1940’s. The event is best known, however, for the guests that frequent it. Beyonce, Kim Kardasian and singer Lady Gaga all graced the red carpet. Draped in designs that supposedly followed the designated theme — ‘China: Through the looking glass’.’

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(07.04.15) – Cruel or Creative? – Animal Tattooing, A Divided Opinion

‘Last month an image appeared on my Facebook news feed of a heavily tattooed cat. Completely fake, of course, the image accompanied a blog post about the ethical and artistic implications of animal body art. It raised a significant issue. Is tattooing pets a sign of creativity, or cruelty, on the part of the owner?’

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(02.04.15) – Photojournalism: Shoot or Save?

‘The world of fashion and artistic photography are always portrayed as incredibly glamourous. Pre-organised shoots or models dressed in couture to advertise the latest perfume. Photojournalism falls into a slightly different category. Sitting on the boundaries between art and reporting, a photojournalist’s job is to depict the events and suffering that words are unable to convey.

But how does a photojournalist disconnect from the suffering they are capturing, without wanting to help those in the picture?

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(24.02.15) – Artistic Security

‘The work of the infamous graffiti artists Banksy has caused controversy and divided opinions since it began to appear around Britain in the early nineties. His identity has supposedly been revealed countless times, and many auctions have attempted to sell off his work, to leave the new owner responsible for its protection or removal. Throughout every piece of controversy, the artists has remained anonymous.’

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(10.02.15) – How Much Does A Painting Really Cost?

‘Last week a painting by French artist Paul Gauguin sold at auction for £197 million.’

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(27.01.15) – Review: Tibetan Night Terrors

‘Are you with the band?’. Shamefully, this was my opening line of conversation to a member of Tibetan Night Terrors, at a blogging event at The Birdcage last week.

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(16.01.15) – Loving Without [Gallery] Labels

‘Norwich city centre is home to a plethora of well-known art, by many famous and reputable artists. The Sainsbury Centre collection holds paintings and sculptures by artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon. A multitude of texts have been written on our Cathedral and the remains of the historic city walls.’

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