Tag Archives: Myrtle Beach

CHARLES WILLIAMS “Swim” in South Strand News

30 Jan

Sink or swim: Georgetonian conquers fears through his artwork

  • Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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“In Seconds No. 4” by Charles E. Williams


Charles Williams is getting nervous. He grips his hands tighter together while he talks, causing his knuckles to whiten. His voice lowers and his speech slows. If one were to look closely, they may see a bead of sweat or two appear on his brow.

He’s talking about swimming, or rather his inability to swim, as he stands amongst four huge six-foot-by-six-foot paintings of the ocean.

The works are his, on display at the Franklin G. Burroughs — Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach in an exhibition titled “Swim: An Artist’s Journey.”

“This is me trying to look at what’s causing my fear. The water is alluring but deadly, and it has these human characteristics. Water has always been an intricate part of my pieces,” Williams said. “…For viewers, I’m just using swimming to represent me, but this is also for others to look at their fears and make steps toward becoming better individuals.”

For Williams, that journey, and his fear of water, started when the Georgetown native was 11 years old.

“When I was 11, I was taken under. I was jumping the waves with my cousin at the state park in Myrtle Beach,” he remembers.

From that point forward, the fear of water had a tight grip on Williams, causing him to have what he calls “accidents” every time he ventured into the water in the future.

The accidents – near drownings and panic attacks in the water – have continued all of Williams’ life, since the incident when he was 11 years old, to the swimming lessons he failed in high school, up to three years ago, the most recent event, when he had a panic attack after finding he couldn’t touch the bottom of a swimming pool.

“Swim” is an attempt to tackle his fears, and his next step in finally learning to swim.

His original idea for an exhibition at the museum was a bit different, but it evolved after museum staff asked him to make the works more personal.

“I thought this would be a good time to be brave enough to do a few water paintings. It was therapeutic in a way,” Williams said. “I love a challenge, and this is a life challenge for me.”

The exhibition opened on Jan. 15 and will close at the museum on April 23.

“It was a packed house,” Williams said of the opening. “I was really surprised and grateful.”

The crowd included friends, family, sponsors, collectors and even “people from high school when I was selling my work in Georgetown to raise money for college at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design),” he said.

He first attended Georgetown High, but finished his degree at Carvers Bay High. In 2006 he graduated from SCAD and worked in graphic design briefly before becoming a fulltime painter in 2008.

Williams has had several solo exhibitions in Georgetown, Pawleys Island and Charleston; has been a part of 25 group exhibitions in cities across the U.S. including Atlanta, Sacramento and Washington, D.C.; and has won 11 awards and fellowships for his work.

“Swim” is a collection of 48 oil works – eight six-foot canvas paintings and 40 smaller studies, 30 of the daytime and 10 of nighttime. It took him eight months to complete them.

Standing next to the canvas works, Williams is almost as tall as they are.

“I even feel like these are too small,” he said. “I wanted to paint them as large as I could. It goes back to the person experiencing what I fear. I wanted the pieces to take over you.”

The exhibition is held in three rooms, which Williams described as a “cinematic spectrum from day to night.”

The first room is brightly lit and shows four canvas works titled “In Seconds.” Each shows a progression of the experience of drowning; from No. 1 to No. 4, the viewer is above the water, at the cusp of being under water, completely engulfed under water, and lastly drowning.

“In Seconds No. 4” depicts an 11-year-old Williams floating beneath the surface of the water.

“No. 4 is a significant piece. You know how people talk about dying and seeing the white light? Well I saw it,” Williams said. “I wanted this to reflect the idea of the white light. It’s warm, full of life, and this is me in a sort of ‘letting go’ pose.”

The center room features the study pieces, which are smaller works on paper and canvas.

The studies, which feature day and night images, lead into the final room that houses all four “Lost and Found” paintings.

Williams explains the works, which show portions of the ocean illuminated by light, surrounded by darkness: “Psychologically, I wanted to go back into my mind with a flashlight and find the monster. As a kid, I was also afraid of the dark, so this also helped me show, ‘Hey, I can tackle this fear.’”

Ocean sounds are playing in all of the rooms, which only adds to the feeling of becoming Williams, and he said the effect is particularly important in the “Lost and Found” room.

“I wanted to mimic what you can’t see,” he said, “and yet you can hear the sound of the water.”

To accomplish the effect, he used a flashlight and camera at the beach at night to gather images for inspiration. The lights in the room also mirror the experience, with dim lighting in the center and one spotlight aimed at each piece to mimic where the artist’s flashlight would have been.

Williams’ journey of exploration also took him beyond case studies and into research. It’s a stereotype that most blacks can’t swim, but the artist wanted to know more details. His research revealed that each year, for every one white child who dies from drowning, two to three black children die from it.

“In a way, I would like ‘Swim’ to be an awareness too. … I think it comes down to parents, and how they view the importance of swimming as a survival mechanism,” he said.

Williams called the experience “surreal” to have his first museum show at home along the Atlantic Ocean, a sentiment similar to making money from conquering his fears. Each of the larger canvases has a $10,000 price tag attached.

“As an artist, we already make a living off of putting ourselves out there,” Williams said. “I would encourage all artists to explore learning about themselves and illustrating that. It lets everyone see them innocently.”

Does the 31-year-old consider himself brave for conquering the project?

“Hell yeah, brave in many ways. I took a year off of working for commercial galleries to invest the time, research and process to create these,” Williams said, “but it was all worth it and I would do it again. And I will do it again.”

With a little less enthusiasm, but the same determination, he said the same of swimming: “I still fear the water, but this is my first step toward learning how to swim.”

CHARLES WILLIAMS Museum Exhibition “Swim” Dispels Stereotypes

29 Jan


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Myrtle Beach art museum offering aims to dispel stereotypes about African-Americans and swimming

For Weekly SurgeJanuary 15, 2015

Charles Williams. Courtesy photo.

Charles Williams. Courtesy photo.

Known for his realism, especially in regard to ocean scenes, artist and Georgetown native Charles Williams, 30, will present 12 six-by-eight oil paintings and 40 painted studies for “Swim: An Artist’s Journey,” inspired by a near-drowning experience and his efforts to come to terms with water – its beauty and serenity versus the potential danger and the very real possibility of fatality – opening tonight at Myrtle Beach’s Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum.

Williams, who is African-American, said the original focus of “Swim” was on stereotypes associated with black males and swimming – like “black people don’t swim,” and his impressions of the percentage rate of accidental drowning, utilizing iconic sneakers as social context in his pieces. His work has since taken on a deeply personal tone. “I decided to put the sneaker social context aside and work on the psychology of this fear that I had of water,” he said. “This exhibition is an acknowledgement of my fear – and also the first step that I am making toward progressing – toward getting back into the water and being able to be comfortable and swim.”

The process has proven to be therapeutic for Williams.

Charles Williams. Courtesy photo.

Charles Williams. Courtesy photo.

“I am using swimming as a vehicle to say, ‘OK, this is who I am, and I am comfortable to say that this is my fear.’” In the past, he would tell people that he took lessons if the subject of swimming came up, but this was only part of the equation. He knew the techniques, but his fear overrode them. “But lately in doing these massive paintings for my show, I have gotten more comfortable about saying, ‘No – I can’t swim. If you put me in water, I can’t swim. I need a life vest.’”

His works promise to reveal a battle within himself over time. “It’s like the water and the ocean have these human characteristics. It could be serene and pretty, but it can also be overwhelming and intimidating,” he said. “The more you study it and the more you understand it, you have to respect it. In order to respect it, you have to learn the tactics to survive in it – and that encompasses swimming.”

The exhibition has been in the works for quite some time, according to Art Museum executive director Pat Goodwin.

“We first met and discussed an exhibition with Charles a few years ago,” she said. “Shortly after those initial conversations, he presented us with Swim: An Artist’s Journey – a very unique exhibition concept. We were immediately intrigued. Here was an opportunity to not only showcase Charles’ work but also to offer an exhibit that included an educational and didactic component, and that is something very important to the mission of our Art Museum.”

Over the summer, Goodwin said she and Museum curator Liz Miller visited Williams in his studio in downtown Charleston before his recent move to Charlotte, N.C. “We were able to see a few of the larger works as well as discuss the specifics for the exhibition as a whole,” she said. “Since that visit, Charles regularly sends us images of the paintings, and frequent phone calls, e-mails and text messages keep us connected to the project. During the summer studio visit, we were also able to discuss the design of the exhibition catalogue and happily our creative ideas meshed perfectly.”

Goodwin says Williams is a detail-oriented professional, “thinking about not just the individual works but also about how they work together to tell the story – and how the story will play out with the audience.”

Linda Ketron of ART WORKS in the Litchfield Exchange, says her history with the Williams family goes back more than 20 years, and she was one of his many early supporters in the local community. In fact, Ketron was one of a group that helped the young artist develop his portfolio and raise funds to use for tuition at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

“When Charles announced the upcoming show and the financial challenges he faced getting the pieces framed and transported for display, ART WORKS was planning its “Homecoming” show,” she said. “We dedicated the gallery’s commissions on sales toward the “Swim” exhibit and were able to send $500 to join the donations received from his private collectors, corporate sponsors and grant monies.”

Ketron is taken with the story behind this new exhibition.

“Charles has sent photos along with his moving story. His journey is one shared by many African Americans along the coastal communities. The Sandy Island boat tragedy of a few years back remains an open wound, though the local YMCA and other outreach efforts are making great strides in teaching swimming lessons to the young and old. I have imagined standing in one of the museum’s gallery rooms with these enormous paintings of unkind waters around me. The feelings of vulnerability and fear are palpable. I can hardly wait to see the exhibit in person.”

CHARLES WILLIAMS solo at The Franklin G. Burroughs‑Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum

13 Jan

A huge congratulations to MFA artist CHARLES WILLIAMS for his first museum solo exhibition!

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January 15th – April 23rd, 2015

“Swim: An Artist’s Journey” solo exhibition at The Franklin G. Burroughs‑Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC.

What was once hidden is now an open artistic diary of Charles Williams’ fearful journey.

 A native of Georgetown, SC, Charles Williams continues to explore the nuances of his emotional relationship with water — this time investigating thoughts, emotions and experiences from the past, so that what was once hidden has now become an artistic public journal for viewers to co-explore his ocean phobia. His solo exhibit Swim: An Artist’s Journey captures the essence of his ever-morphing aqua obsession with hauntingly personal and hyper-real 6’+ oil paintings placed strategically to surround and engulf, bringing the viewer face-to-face and into the ocean. Utilizing cinematic elements of sight and sound, the exhibit experience is intended to evoke the sensation of being in water.

Known for his contemporary landscapes, Williams shows his sensitivity by exposing his journey from fear to freedom through the visual poetry of these works. Personal sequential experiences imbued with the cultural influences of living on the southeastern coast and actualized on canvas will be offered as this artist’s diary of his fearful obsession with water.

Seen in the American Art Collector, and Professional Artist Magazine for his 2012 show entitled “In Thought,” as well as other various internet and art publications. Other publications follow the rising artist with features and previews in the Artist Magazine, Studio Visit, Charleston Magazine, Grand Strand Magazine, Empty Magazine, Escape into Life, the Oxford, Southwest Art and more.

Swim: An Artist’s Journey will be presented in January 2015 at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC.


About Charles Williams 

Charles Williams is a professional contemporary realist painter from Georgetown, South Carolina and a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art. Utilizing oils for the basis of landscapes, each painting captures his reflection of human emotions in response to and in sync with the natural environment. Recent achievements and awards include a Hudson River Landscape Fellowship, featured work in the Artist’s Magazine’s 28th Annual Art Competition, honorable mention from Southwest Art Magazine’s 21 Emerging Under 31 competition, 2012 Winner of the Fine Art Category from Creative Quarterly, 2013 selected artist for 28th Positive Negative juried art exhibition at East Tennessee State University, juror/curated by Michael Ray Charles from PBS Art 21, one of 25 selected artists for the 2012 Dave Bown Project in Chicago, juried/curated by Karl Hecksher, owner K5 Editions, New York, Andrea Karnes, curator at Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, Mary Kate O’Hare, curator at American Art, Newark Museum, 2ndBluecanvas Publication international competition, “Environments” and featured cover artist of Composite and Professional Artist Magazine. Williams’ works has been shown in American Art Collector, Empty Magazine, Charleston Magazine, Grand Strand, Studio Visit, Bluecanvas and other national publications. He was interviewed and broadcast on ETV/ NPR station on September 3, 2012, entitled: Nature Through the Eyes of an Artist. He recently received the 2014 Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Award from the State of South Carolina for development of enriching art programs within local communities.

His contemporary landscapes have been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in galleries in New York, Vermont, California, and several other southeastern states and now are represented by Robert Lange Studios and Morton Fine Art.

Please contact Morton Fine Art for artwork availability.



(202) 628-2787

CHARLES WILLIAMS featured in Azalea Magazine

11 Mar


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
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