HONORED: Howards discuss artwork at reception Friday

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Troy University student spoke, then turned quickly away, perhaps, thinking, he had spoken too openly.

But the young man was right in thinking that “We (were) in the presence of greatness.”

The event was the “Mike Howard Reception” at Troy University’s International Arts Center Friday evening.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The reception honored Mike Howard, “Pivotal Moments in Alabama History” artist and also his wife, Mary Howard, who is one of fashion’s more prolific production and set designers.

Those who packed the IAC were honored to have the opportunity to meet the artists personally and to hear them speak about their work, said Gen. Walter Givhan, event emcee.

Mike Howard’s “Pivotal Moments in Alabama History” opened at the IAC on August 12 and will run through October 20. The exhibit features three key moments in Alabama’s history –marchers crossing Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, Rosa Park seated on a Montgomery city bus and the assassination of Alabama Attorney General Albert Patterson in Phenix City.

Mary Howard joined her husband on campus and was featured in “Mary Howard Presents” on Friday. There was standing room only for Howard’s presentation.

Mary Howard has created inspiring, photo-ready works for some of the industry’s most celebrated lensmen including Annie Leibovitz. Howard was with Leibovitz when she photographed the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She framed Caitlyn Jenner for her Vanity Fair cover and has produced dozens of spectacular sets for American Vogue.

“In the presence of greatness?” It certainly seemed so as Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. acknowledged the “creative” couple.

The Chancellor and First Lady Janice Hawkins are long-time friends with the couple.

He welcomed them to Troy University, saying, “It is well you have come.”

The Howard couple spoke in tandem about their work. He expressed great pride in the work his wife does and she in his.

However, she did admit to having made a suggestion or two about her husband’s artwork.

In the painting of the marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Mary Howard suggested that the image of the Georgia Congressman John Lewis needed more detail. Her husband agreed.

Carrie Jaxon, IAC curator, said she enjoyed the interaction between the couple.

“It was interesting that Mike accepted Mary’s critique of his work and said he got better from it,” Jaxon said.

Mike Howard’s ‘Pivotal Moments in Alabama History’ was different from the flowers he had been painting. But nonetheless his work captured those historic moments in times in a gripping way.

Howard, a Phenix City boy, painted himself in the scene that took place in his hometown the day Patterson was shot, June 18, 1954. H said that day is forever engrained in his memory.

The wall paintings of the gruesome cleanup scene and the brutality of the events of the day were captured in a bold, graphic way by Howard.

But the lighter side of the artist came through as he talked about Phenix City’s popular E-lite Café and how cows often appear in his artwork.

He took a cue from Andy Warhol, “Cows are not dated,” he said, with a smile.

Jaxon said together the Howards are dynamic just as they as they are as individual artists.

“We were pleased to have faculty members, students and community members here for the reception,” Jaxon said. “The Howards have a close bond with Troy and we are honored to have them.”

Jaxon said three-follow up events are planned that will provide more information about and foster greater understanding of the three pivotal moments in Alabama History. On October 2, there will be round table discussions from 2:30 until 4 p.m. at the IAC. On October 3, from 7 until 9 p.m. “Selma” the movie will be shown at the IAC. The Phenix City Story, will conclude the events on October 10 from 7 until 9 p.m. at the IAC. All events are free and open to the public.