Mildred Howard – In the Line of Fire
Dimensions: variable, 20’x20′ installation
Medium: installation, silkscreen on wood
In the Line of Fire by Howard consists of 60 life-size figures, which are made up of cut-out sheets of plywood that have been silkscreen-printed. The image is of a single repeated figure—a young man in his teens, who was a distant relative of the artist and who had been drafted or enlisted into the U.S. Army during the First World War. This assembly of multiple cut-out figures creates a silent regiment of wooden soldiers. The First World War created a situation in which African Americans could (or were compelled to) prove their “Americanness.” Despite serving bravely and honorably, upon their return home after the war their service was not rewarded with full and equitable civil rights. Instead, Black Americans in the post war period found themselves still “in the line of fire” in their own towns and cities. This is graphically illustrated by the bull’s eye motifs that appear on the back of each figure, underscoring the ways in which Black men and boys remain targets of violence. Howard’s work not only points to the history of racism in this country, but also raises fundamental questions surrounding what it means to be American. In the Line of Fire is deeply personal, and also addresses a much larger, collective history. Through her installation Howard exposes aspects of stereotyping and discrimination, calling upon the viewer to reflect on these compelling issues.
-Shirley Fiterman Art Center, New York