Nora Howell is a fiber and performance-based sculpture artist and art administrator living in Baltimore, Maryland. In her art, Nora uses a mix of ceramics and soft sculpture to develop a visual language to illuminate and stimulate dialogue around themes of motherhood, racial identity, community, power, and privilege. For 9 years Howell was the Program Director of Jubilee Arts, a community-arts program in west Baltimore that uses art as a tool for building community and changing the future. She is a Hamiltonian Fellowship Alumni, 2018 Daily Record 40 under 40 VIP awardee, and Sondheim Prize 2014 semi-finalist.
As a fiber and performance-based sculpture artist and community builder, I create pieces and communal conversations that cultivate resilience and resistance. Formally trained as a Community Artist at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s MFA program, my recent work pulls from my own internal struggles with motherhood and white racial identity. Although the work is deeply personal, it is also communal in nature–inviting others to wrestle with identity and systems of oppression.
Each piece captures a unique moment in my journey. Some pieces are self-portraits of my changed skin—porcelain shapes held together by fiber mimicking the texture and patterns of my postpartum stretch marks. Other pieces embody the strength of my body. While still others wrestle with the ongoing stress of parenting, and simply living, in an ever-evolving pandemic—an experience of change we all share. I use ‘ordinary’ clay, cotton yarn, weaving needles, and latch hooks to pay homage to the generations of mothers who have gone before me and used these materials to create beautiful, expressive, and essential items for their children. The everydayness of these materials highlights the value in the taken-for-granted, common parts of our life’s stories.