Tag Archives: Charleston

CHARLES WILLIAMS at the Gibbes Museum

3 Jun

 

Gibbes visiting artist Charles Williams wants you to touch his paintings — and draw on them

Reestablishing the narrative

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Wed, May 31, 2017

The Day After

“This feels like a family reunion,” says Charles Williams, standing, grinning, a little out of breath, surveying tables covered in crayons and blank watercolor papers; sheets of brown and white paper are hung around the room, waiting for Williams’ deft hand. This studio on the Gibbes ground floor will be Williams’ home, or at least artistic hub, for the next two weeks. He’s rushing to get everything set up — there’s a fellows luncheon in a few hours and executive director Angela Mack swings by to let him know some members may be stopping in. Williams is more than accommodating; he’s a nice guy, but he’s also confident in his work. He isn’t afraid of a few premature visitors.
“As a child I remember coming to the Gibbes, and now I’m here during Spoleto, it’s huge.” A Georgetown, S.C. native and Savannah College of Art and Design alum, Williams is a man of the Lowcountry through and through, and community is important to him, especially in Charleston. “I feel like Charleston was a city that really stood out with all that’s been happening [with race relations in the country] … it just really showed the essence of what the Lowcountry embodies. Charleston really set the bar [of how a city should respond] and I thought ‘How can I capitalize on this?'”

Hot off of “two years of intensity” at UNC Greensboro — Wiliams just graduated this spring with a Masters in Fine Art — the artist is ready to let loose, to break down barriers and knock out walls. “The power of museums and art galleries is they’re community centers. They serve multiple purposes. But when you go to these institutions, they say you can’t touch. And I understand why … but you go to these places repeatedly and they keep saying ‘you can’t do this.’ The rebellion and curiosity in me says ‘Well, what if I did touch, what if I did make a mark?'”
In his new series premiering at the Gibbes, Child’s Play: Everyone Loves the Sunshine, Williams uses old black-and-white photographs from the 1920s through 1960s that show people from different backgrounds coming together, uniting behind a common cause. Williams was inspired to seek out this theme after the multiple police brutality incidents of 2016, “There was one incident that really compelled me … that led me to create this work. What I wanted to say with this work is look at how little we’ve changed. History is like looking at our own reflection. I think when you know where you’ve been and where you’ve come from you can reposition yourself to move forward.”

And I Still Love

And, there’s no point in moving forward if we don’t move forward together. Which is where we, the public, come in. “So basically I’ve created this adult coloring book,” says Williams, directing my attention to a sheet of paper with two intricately drawn figures, two little boys, hands intertwined as one helps the other with what appears to be a hurt finger. The image is taken from one of Williams’ historic photographs, the boys fading away at the edges, surrounded by scratches of “school bus” yellow, smudges of gray, circles of red. “People can come and add color to this, draw over the figures, whatever they want.” My heart drops — let some random stranger potentially ruin this beautiful, carefully crafted work with an errant mark?
Yes. But it will not be a ruining, it will be a rendering, one that Williams will continue to work with. “Viewers can come in and paint, and recreate works with me. If they want to paint over arms or legs, that’s OK. My goal is to break down the barriers.”
Williams puts me to work, having me rip (carefully!) watercolor papers into 10×10 scratch pads that visitors will be able to color on. I’m not someone who can “eyeball” something, and I tell Williams this. But he trusts me. Trust has to be an integral part of his process — it’s trust that unites, says Williams. “When Charleston came together there was a trust that was there, that connected everyone to stand strong, to not destroy the city. Within that trust, I thought ‘What does that symbol look like?’ And that symbol looks like the handshake. Growing up, my grandfather couldn’t read or write so he told me that you have to have a firm handshake. He had five kids, and needed to provide for his family. He said ‘You look a man or woman in their eyes, shake their hand firmly, and do what you say you’re going to do.’ That establishes trust. So I was thinking, how can we in the community reestablish that?”
Williams, by highlighting images with hands that depict “strength, power, control, vulnerability, help, forgiveness,” is creating a space of trust, a space sans barriers. He doesn’t copy the images — that would miss the point entirely. He uses them as a base, a foundation that he builds on to evolve the photograph in his “own language” with intuitive mark makings and strokes. “There’s me reestablishing the narrative.”
By adding color — particularly the school bus yellow that is included in every piece in the series — Williams is making the pieces his own, and mine, and yours. Williams, ever the student, says that “all the colors are specific from my studies of the psychology of color and how they affect humans. School bus yellow in Child’s Play is observant, happy, expressive, curious … For me, I’m curious to see what viewers and participants make and do with the crayons and markers. And I can weave in and out with the marks they put. Painting has a long lineage of documenting the now. I’m pushing the envelope of how I can open the dialogue further.” And if you come into the Gibbes on a day when you’re feeling glum, or out of sorts, you don’t have to draw bright yellow sunshines on Williams’ large-scale adult coloring book. “Whatever color you’re feeling, put down that. If you’re feeling blue, use blue. That’s the beauty of it, no barriers.”

Click HERE to view available artwork by CHARLES WILLIAMS.

 

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Charles Williams’ beautiful struggle in the Charlotte Agenda

30 Jun

 

charlotte agenda

Charles Williams’ beautiful struggle

“Be careful Charles. Don’t go jumping waves with your cousins” Charles’ father called from the picnic area.

But the boys raced down to the edge of the shore anyway. The sea spray felt cool on their skin as they leapt through the first knee high swells and continued wading into the surf, splashing and laughing in the summer heat. Each successive wave brought with it more laughter as the boys tempted fate and cooled their noon baked skin. The last wave rose up in front of the boys, continuing to grow as it gained momentum, when it reached its peak, it paused, towering over their heads. The wind caught the crest of the wave, spraying a mist of salt water across the sky and creating a shimmering rainbow in the stillness. The boys yelled in anticipation as the full weight of the water came crashing down around them, forcing them under, and tossing them off their feet in a roaring wash of salt, sand and foam.

Then everything was dark.

His cousins popped up laughing exuberantly, wiping the salt out of their eyes and squinting against the glare of the bright afternoon sun. Charles was nowhere to be seen. He would come to, several minutes later, with his father and uncle anxiously leaning over him. Charles sputtered, then coughed. His father smiled with relief and held the breathing boy close, Charles Williams was alive.

There would be several more drowning scares as the years stacked up, and Charles’ fear of the ocean would remain strong, while some other urge kept drawing him to the water. It is this dichotomy, the fear and the attraction, that makes Charles Williams‘ paintings, now on display at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation where Charles is currently an artist-in-residence, so alluring.

“The thing that moves me the most about Charles Williams’ vision is his focus on fear and overcoming that fear.” says Mitchell Kearney, Image Maker.

charles-williams

Fear can be a funny thing. At times it is paralyzingly obvious, but on the whole, fear tends to be more insidious. Hiding in plain sight, rarely acknowledged, but insinuating itself into every decision, tainting every dream with a shadow of anxiety.

Charles is no stranger to fear, he has confronted and overcome it numerous times throughout his life. Like the time he decided to use his artistic talents to pay for college instead of taking the easier route and simply working a part-time job.

“My dad told me ‘I don’t want you to work at McDonald’s or the Grocery Store, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I want you to figure out a way to use your talent.’”

And that is exactly what Charles did, from displaying his art on any shelf in town that would have him, to selling out galleries. Or when he left a successful career as a graphic designer, having won industry awards and made a name for himself, to whole heartedly embrace his passion as an artist. Charles knows what it feels like to be afraid and uncertain at the crossroads of life. He knows what it is to have the hopes and dreams of a community resting on his shoulders. And through all of the progressions; professionally, personally and artistically, the fear of the water still remains.

Yet Charles has always been drawn to the water. He has lived by the water all of his life, and most recently moved with his wife to Charlotte from James Island, where they lived near the beach for the past four years.

Every day…every single day, Charles would go down to the seaside and watch the waves. He would take photographs of the water, analyze the currents, dissect the combination of light and texture, dimension and fluidity within the tides, and see, really see the ocean. See it in all of its color and majesty, all of its power and awe. That “seeing” was Charles’ way of embracing his fear. He is not ashamed to acknowledge his weakness, or embody his desire to overcome it, and in the process produce breathtaking works of art.

charles-williams

“For his recent exhibition, “Swim,” Charles Williams creates powerful and mesmerizing images of the sea. This force of nature becomes a metaphor for other potentially threatening emotional and societal undertows that must be navigated with courage and skill. An accomplished artist, Williams will continue to probe topics that need further dialogue.” says Carla Hanzal, an Independent Curator.

Charles has channeled his fear of swimming to create some of the most realistic paintings of the Atlantic Ocean I have ever seen. His canvasses are larger than life. Looking at Charles’ renderings of waves curling and thrashing with each other inspires awe and fear.

“All of the works that were in the exhibition, I wanted them to be large…I wanted you to feel like you were there, and doing them small would not have captured the essence of the emotional tie that I have to not being able to swim.” says Charles.

The ocean demands those feelings, commands your respect, and that intensity is palpable in Charles’ paintings. Mother Nature is awesome, in the true and original sense of the word, and fear is not an inappropriate feeling to have when in her grasp.

The depth of Charles’ paintings, the texture of the water, the interplay of light and color, is so realistic you feel like you are in the trough of a swell. On the east coast there are no waves without foam. And if you have ever been to the coasts of North or South Carolina, you know our waters are not crystal clear, or even blue. They are a rolling, roiling, turbulent color that alludes to the sand and life churning just beneath the surface, and they are always covered in foam. Charles captures the essence of our coastal waters with a unique honesty and vivid realism.

“I paint like a water colorist…but I work wet on wet so the cool thing is that I like to scrub out…. so you get all of those layers shining through… which gives it that glow.” Charles says of his particular process for finding the colors to make his portraits of the sea so incredibly life like.

Charles has big things on the horizon. As he continues his journey and faces his fear of the water, he plans to document his progress with photos and video, using these images to tell his story. Charles is currently working on pieces for his upcoming shows, as an artist-in-residence at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation, where he will be through early August.

That means we, as Charlotteans, have the rare opportunity to not only experience Charles’ realistic and imposing paintings of the sea, but to witness the craft and skill by which he brings the ocean into his studio. Stop in, take a few minutes to appreciate the dynamic beauty of his work, and talk with a man who is determined to better himself.

A link to the article: http://www.charlotteagenda.com/5999/charles-williams-beautiful-struggle/

Please contact Morton Fine Art for available work by artist CHARLES WILLIAMS.

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 628-2787, mortonfineart@gmail.com, http://www.mortonfineart.com

CHARLES WILLIAMS featured in Azalea Magazine

11 Mar

azalea-web-optomized-final_02

charles williams azalea

After Spreading His Wings, Artist Charles Williams Longed To Return To His Roots. So He Painted His Way Home.

When I met Charles Williams, he was tucked into a small studio space at Redux Contemporary Art Center, working on a commissioned landscape piece. He invited me in, and asked if he could continue painting as we talked. I eagerly agreed; this offered me the opportunity to watch him transform a blank wooden canvas into a brilliant Lowcountry panorama.

Born and raised in Georgetown, SC, William’s talent was harnessed from a very young age. His parents were aggressively instrumental in his success.

“My mother noticed I was pretty good at coloring within the lines of my Ninja Turtle® coloring book,” Williams says, smiling. “She always had me drawing with a pen and pad.”

In elementary school, his mother made arrangements with the school’s art teacher to keep Charles after school, working on different art techniques, from colored pencil to water color
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William’s mother wasn’t the only one supportive of his talent. On his first day of high school, his father visited the art teacher, Heath Hampton, and asked him what he could do for his son. Hampton took Williams under his wing, arranging private lessons with a local painter. There, he learned advanced art techniques, as well as the business side of the art world. When most kids were out partying or heading to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, Williams was at home painting, and with Hampton’s help, Williams received a scholarship to (SCAD) Savannah Collage of Art and Design.

“I switched majors back and forth”, Williams says. “They offered so much; I wanted to do it all.”
Williams graduated in 2006, with a major in advertising and a minor in fine arts. He got a job in Tampa, FL, with the Publix Corporation®, working on the design team for their Greenwise® product line. Although he found success with Publix®, Williams missed home.

“I was eight hours from home, so I started painting it,” Williams says.

He painted scenes of the Lowcountry, reliving memories of his life on the Black River. Williams submitted his work to a Tampa Gallery, and was accepted into a group show. Little did he know that a late night mistake would come to shape the signature of his work.

While working on a small painting for the group show, he spilled a cup of water on the canvas, making the paint bleed to the bottom. He put it aside and forgot about it. When the gallery director stop by his studio to check on his progress, she saw the painting, loved the drip look, and asked to have it.

Williams sold out his first two gallery shows, and things snowballed from there. Selling numerous paintings, including private and corporate commissions, Williams quit his job at Publix® to begin painting full time.
In 2009, Williams was accepted into the Hudson River Fellowship in New York, where 32 artists out of 5,000 applicants were invited to walk the trails of master landscape artists, and study the anatomy of nature.
“It was like a painting boot camp,” Williams says.

After completing the Hudson River Fellowship, Williams knew what he really wanted, so he moved back to Charleston. On a visit to the Robert Lange Gallery, he told the owner that he would one day be featured there. She smiled, gave him a hug, and told him to submit his work. After five “no’s,” the Robert Lange Gallery gave him a shot at a group show, where he sold every one of his paintings. He was given more shows, which also sold out. Williams was finally invited to join the gallery.

On top of managing the stresses that come with being a full-time artist, Charles Williams also gives back to the community that has given so much to him.

“I am always thinking of the kids in the classrooms who have talent, but don’t know how, or may not have the resources to cultivate that talent,” Williams says. “I want to give them the opportunities and experiences that my teachers offered me.”

In an effort to help foster creative students in multiple art forms, Williams formed the C.E. Williams Collaborative, offering what he has learned to middle and high school students interested in pursuing a career in the arts. He passes along the foundations and technical attributes of art, teaches students how to articulate their work, and how to build relationships with collectors.

“They are receiving all the important aspects of being a complete artist,” Williams says.

The C.E. Williams Collaborative recently held it first student art exhibition at Robert Lange Studios, giving the nine students of the Georgetown and Charleston County collaborative the opportunity to show their work.

“They have some killer work,” he says, smiling.

Today, Williams is working on a new series of paintings. He has a museum exhibition scheduled for the Spring 2015, at Burroughs and Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, where he will show works that reflect an issue dear to his heart.

“I have had multiple near drowning incidents in my past,” he says. “I have taken swimming lesson, but never been a confident swimmer.”

Williams has been researching the history of swimming, and how slavery and other cultural influences might have affected the African-American community’s relationship with swimming. Through his research, he found that for every Caucasian drowning, there are three African-American drownings.

“We hear all about deaths that result from drugs and violence,” Williams says. “But drownings are like a silent killer in this community.”

For William’s upcoming museum exhibition, he is working on a (social awareness) series of paintings pairing objects such as shoes and jewelry, items he feels the African-American community sees as status symbols, with water environments like pools and shorelines. He hopes this series will shine a light on the importance of focusing on water safety rather than the false security of material things.

Charles Williams truly embodies the spirit of art. Not only is he a master of the techniques that make his work so captivating, but he also processes humility and compassion that shows vibrantly in his work away from the canvas. He has both literally and figuratively taken the scenic route to where he is today…a place where he can create his own landscape.

By Will Rizzo