Jewel Ham USA, b. 1989


Jewel Ham (b. 1998, USA) is a multi-media visual artist whose work mobilizes the figure to narrate inangible emotional states. 


Working in a ranger of mediums including oils, acrylics and pastels, Ham constructs layered, painterly images that express both psychological energy and material weight. 


Ham describes her painting practice as being rooted in “shit talking and reparations.” Her use of the term reparations goes beyond financial aspects into issues like how Black people occupy physical and emotional space within society, and how they can investigate those questions within a space of real freedom. 


“Shit talking is important because Black people have been forced to be super creative about everything we do and say,” says Ham. “We have to use what we have. The way we do fashion, food, music. It’s something that only we can do, so we have to shit talk about it.” 


Ham uses humor to invite viewers into the space. Her intent is to make anyone feel welcome within her painted worlds, and to create a sense of real empathy between viewers and the figures in her paintings. At the same time, she imbues her paintings with a profound sense of attitude, populating the visual space with scenes expressive of expressing histories and feelings that are not intended to be accessible to every viewer. Whether its the figure’s gaze, or symbolic elements within the compositon, Ham is intentionally deploying aesthetic barriers within her painted spaces. Everyone is welcome to look, but not everyone is going to understand or have access to everything that’s going on. 


“The girls who get it, get it, and the girls who don’t, don’t,” says Ham. “It’s not meant to be explained. That’s a problem we have as Black folks is that so much of our culture is stolen, and so much is given away. You can’t have this. The whole thing is a shit talk.” 


Ham earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Howard universtiy in Washington, DC. Her paintings were featured in New American Paintings No. 154, South Issue. She was the 2021 recipient of the South Arts State Fellowship - North Carolina. In 2020, she was commissioned to create the Black Lives Matter mural at Keith YMCA in Charlotte, NC.