Howard Jones' Masterly Crafted Merged Art Gets Rare Exhibition at SOHA Gallery

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

“I’d like to think of them having a function somehow,” says artist Howard Jones about his art work, which seamlessly merges two disparate, everyday objects into one. “Just maybe not in our realm.” Jones’ funky fusion results in two-toed shoes, shovels with serpentine handles, paintbrushes with everything attached to them except bristles, and many more common items transformed into magical wonders. In a rare public exhibition titled “Tool Shed,” Jones’ art will go on display at SOHA Gallery beginning with a reception Friday, Jan. 10 from 6-10pm and run through Jan. 25 at 4pm.

Unamed by Howard Jones Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

Unnamed by Howard Jones
Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

Jones—who comes off as down-to-earth and humble—came to St. Louis to teach at Washington University about 30 years ago, but he’s been teaching art at John Burroughs high school for most of that time. In fact, it was when he subbed for the vacationing sculpture teacher at Burroughs 15 years ago that Jones first became interested in creating three-dimensional art. Eventually, that interest would lead to his fantastical creations.

From early on, Jones limited the cost of producing any of his pieces at a maximum amount of $100 dollars, otherwise it “could get to be a very expensive hobby,” he says. Yard sales, estate sales and antique malls supply him with his materials, which he then “cuts and stuff like that” to fit the two seemingly unrelated objects together.

Saw Brush by Howard Jones Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

Saw Brush by Howard Jones
Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

“The good and bad part is to do this stuff, you have to have a lot of crap hanging around, so you need to be a collector of stuff,” Jones says. “Boxes of paint brushes and handles of various kinds—stuff that I might never use.”

Jones focuses on everyday items because he knows them well, and he frequently makes use of things that are actually his—shoes that he’s worn, paintbrushes he’s used to paint, and chairs he has sat in—before he gave them another use. “Another—I hate to say dimension—but another configuration,” he says.

New Glass by Howard Jones Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

New Glass by Howard Jones
Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

“Some of the things—like the serpentine shovel—you could imagine actually using,” Jones says. “The shoes I don’t think you can imagine wearing, and some chairs I wouldn’t recommend sitting on. It’s just giving those common sorts of things another meaning, though I don’t think I can say what that meaning actually is. That’s where I ask for a little participation from the viewer. I’m always fascinated by what people think of a piece because it’s stuff I never thought.”

Among the artists Jones admires are “the pop guys in a lot of ways,” but possibly he is most influenced by René Magritte, the renowned Belgian surrealist known for his bowler-hatted men and the famous Magritte pipe. Still, while Jones admires surrealists, he would not put himself in that group, “I don’t think,” Jones adds. “But Magritte was a huge influence.”

Snke shovel by Howard Jones Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

Snake shovel by Howard Jones
Courtesy of SOHA Gallery

“Tool Shed” at SOHA Gallery will also feature family day on Saturday, Jan. 18 from 11am to 3pm, with exhibit-related art activity and kid-friendly refreshments, and Jones will be on hand to join in the fun and answer questions. In addition, Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 7-8pm, Jones will give a talk followed by a Q&A session where he will speak about his inspiration, influences and artistic goals.

“Tool Shed,” opens at SOHA Gallery, 4915 Macklind Ave, St. Louis, with a reception Friday, Jan. 10 from 6-10pm through January 25 at 4pm. Gallery hours are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm and by appointment. For more information, visit the SOHA Gallery website.

Follow Christopher Reilly on Twitter @ChristoReilly

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