Jackson residents do not have to search far these days to find creative artists of all ages and disciplines making waves and changing the face of this city's burgeoning art scene. Jackson is vital in this regard, and advances in technology and communications are allowing up-and-comers to connect with those around them in new and exciting ways. Of course, a certain duality is bound to arise between the old and new: those traditional painters and sculptors looking to preserve Jackson's colorful and idyllic past versus the new guard—the artists gazing into the future, hoping to fashion a sort of Jackson Renaissance and modernization. But we quickly find that Jackson fits comfortably in the middle of these extremes, with its artists continuing to produce works of art with a predilection toward innovation and self discovery, while retaining a sense of continuity to the city's past.
Such characteristics are present in the work of local painter Ginger Williams, a 23-year-old graduate of Forest Hill High School and William Carey on the Coast, whose paintings will be on display Dec. 2 at The Cedars, alongside works by Charles Smith and Richard McKey. The pieces Williams worked on for this showing wed a contemporary subject matter of longing and alienation with folk art assemblage and process. It is the latter that she is most concerned with—finding myriad approaches to depict human form.
Her predisposal with figurative painting comes with an unwavering fascination of the complexity and uniqueness of her human subjects. She finds echoes of human form in nature, and seeks to pull them out of nature and onto the canvas using a combination of formal process and imagination. Thus, the final extracted figure is a synergistic marriage of ideal form and the intuitive.
Williams takes many of her pieces through many stages of extraction until the desired result is achieved. She explained in her studio in Fondren Corner: "The latest figurative works all began by spilling coffee on paper and once dried searching for outlines of figures. Once I have the drawing, done after an uncontrolled process, I start all over again. I scan the drawing and reverse the image to do a transfer. The drawing is digitally enlarged and printed out to adhere to the surface with polycrylic medium. It's basically like a large fake tattoo. It helps me stay grounded with such an unpredictable process. I believe when I start feeling like I have control and think I know what the end result will be, I will open myself up to a lot of frustration and feelings of inadequacies."
This series was also inspired by another accident—after Williams broke her foot, she was forced to adapt her work to a more stationary mode. She returned to pen and ink to be able to continue her work despite her accident.
It is without surprise, then, that this conscious grappling with the unpredictable elements in her paintings lend themselves to a spiritual dimension and discovery. Williams sees her work, replete with emotion and honesty, as a dedicated effort to achieve monumental goals through God. "I believe my 'talent' was given to me by God, and I should return the many thanks by working as hard as I can," Williams says. "Through much dedication, I see improvements and make Ginger re-evaluations every time I paint. It is my meditation."
The figures in Williams' paintings occupy a space of emotional introspection and contemplation. In "Anastasia‚" the subject sits at a windowsill, her delicate features obscured and encroached upon by the foreboding background composed of dark layers of paint and ink. She seems to emit a certain pain and anxiety, but at the same time a resilience to her surroundings and a willingness to overcome them. Such a figurative theme is common in Williams' work. There seem to be no ready clues or explanations to the subject's circumstances; rather they exist in a temporal state of pure expression, feeling their way through the jarring surroundings in which the artist places them.
She also has a series displayed at New Stage for the next two weeks, in conjunction with "Santaland Diaries." The New Stage series is comprised of "really colorful, impressionistic stained-glass sorts" of paintings, three of which are scenes and two of which are abstract. Williams is also working on two children's books—one of which she is writing with two 11-year-old girls she met as a camp counselor.
Given Williams' increasing interest in self-taught and outsider artists, she was pleased to find her work will be displayed at The Cedars with that of Charles Smith, a 61-year-old artist and inventor. Williams enjoys his work, finding a consistent strand of eclecticism and organic themes throughout. Smith will display a series of boxes that he created specifically to house each of his poems he has written recently. Much of Smith's creations border on the functional, always with an emphasis on playfulness and individuality.
While sometimes tackling more complex themes, Williams finds a playfulness and childlike fascination through her experiences with painting, and she lauds the therapeutic nature of the process. She tends to see her formal knowledge of painting only as a guide, applying certain technical rules to direct her youthful alacrity. Her work is immersed in self-discovery and change, thus making it a worthy metaphor for the growing and shifting sands of the Jackson art scene.
Where have you been all my life Ginger?