Jamie Harris is a multifaceted talent who uses art as a means of historical storytelling and healing. Born and raised in Notasulga Alabama, a few miles from Tuskegee University she is a graduate of Alabama State University where she completed her BA in Fine Arts. She currently is attending Washington University to pursue her Master’s in Fine Arts on a full academic scholarship.
She is the 2021 National Black Arts Festival Horizon Award Winner in Visual Arts
“Oppressive language does more than represent violence, it is violence. Does more than represent the limits of knowledge, it limits knowledge.” ~ Toni Morrison
Pottery is one of the world’s oldest crafts (Definition: arts and crafts. plural noun. us/ˈɑrts ənˈkræfts/ the skills of making objects for decoration and practical uses by hand). Craft is often looked down upon as folk, primitive, or strictly utilitarian. Its history of being used as a vehicle for function and expression is universal. Like the creator Josiah Wedgwood (a British abolitionist), I am using stoneware as opposed to the porcelain variation that it is commonly known for. This use lends to the narrative of what constitutes as primitive/folk craft versus fine wares. The acculturation of western form in the works similar to David Drake and the slaves of South Carolina’s Edgefield district in their face jugs morph to include elements from Western Africa. An exploration of Wedgwood pottery would be an interesting take because of its deeply rooted history in opulence and its fight against oppression.
Traditional Wedgwood was created as a necessity when Josiah lost his right leg to smallpox. No longer able to throw on the potters’ wheel, he created a cast-mold system. His company used stoneware slip until death. The choice to carry on the practice of throwing is a way to further contextualize the labor that comes with ceramic making, and also elaborate the mark making that is unique to each piece that is often forgotten. If freedmen or slaves were allowed to apprentice under his company with no constraints, what may these works have resembled? Pottery is yielded from strength, rhythm, experimentation, and relinquishment. The poetry of this practice gives it the potential to reside in the realm of fine art.
As an artist, I have been pulling from themes of the Jim Crow South and Black Americana in a visual story-telling that celebrates black bodies. The pieces allude to the minstrel show and the degrading imagery used to magnify black stereotypes that are still relevant today. My goal is to paint in a way that contextualizes these ideas in the traditional genres of portraiture and still life. My researching of Small Histories within my own community and that of the African American diaspora across the U.S. is to effectuate these ideas.