Artist playfully reimagines how we use everyday tools

‘Typewriter Brush’ by Howard Jones

By Sarah Weinman

I first saw St. Louis artist Howard Jones’ work a couple of years ago in a show at the Contemporary Art Gallery at St. Louis Community College – Meramec. His art made me smile then and his new show, “Howard Jones: Think Rethink,” at Craft Alliance – Delmar makes me smile now. I’d bet that most viewers have the same reaction to his work. 

“Think Rethink” changes the way we relate to tools and their uses. Each piece is made up of the combination of two ordinary items, like a shovel and chain or paintbrush and gloves. We take all these items in their normal forms for granted and don’t expect to see them modified quite like this. Jones’ new, extraordinary objects are impossible to use for the purpose that each component was originally intended, such as “Shovel Cluster,” a triple-bladed shovel with one handle. Part of the fun of the exhibition is imagining new purposes for each object. 

Jones’ series of modified chairs is especially intriguing. They look like chairs and the frames are wood, but the familiarity stops there. Spiky sweetgum balls make up the seat of “Sweet Gum Chair”, while “Brick Chair” has arms, back, and seat made of bricks and mortar. The seat of “Hearth Chair” is comprised of cast stone and mortar. This piece is also a play on words: the title implies this is furniture to sit in by the hearth, when in fact it’s made from a hearth. We think of chairs as inviting and comfortable, but these are unwelcoming and uncomfortable. 

My favorite pieces are a series of objects called “Brushes,” paintbrush handles attached to unexpected objects. The top three for me are “Typewriter Brush” (typewriter keys on a paintbrush handle), “Violin Brush” (a violin scroll, tuning pegs, and part of the neck on a paintbrush handle), and “Blue Bulb Brush” (a blue lightbulb on a paintbrush handle). These pieces imply the combination of different types of creativity: visual art with literary art and visual art with performing art. The lightbulb may represent creativity as illumination. 


Stefanie Kirkland, Director of Exhibitions and Artists-in-Residence Programs, explains, “Many of [Jones’] materials are staples of artists and craftspeople, so his manipulations feel rooted in familiar truths. He combines each pair of objects seamlessly as if they were designed for that marriage. His work is alluring, humorous, and compelling.”

“Howard Jones: Think Rethink” is on view at Craft Alliance – Delmar through Oct. 22. The gallery is located at 6640 Delmar Blvd. in the Loop. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, call 314-725-1177 or visit