Ginger Williams almost gave up when she got an "F" in figure drawing at the University of Southern Mississippi. "I wanted to quit and do psychology," she said with a wry smile. "I had always wanted to be an artist, but I was so unhappy at USM; even my mother encouraged me to consider a different career." Williams, however, decided that a change of scenery would be better than a change of career, so she applied to schools on the Gulf Coast. She was accepted to William Carey College on the Coast with a full scholarship.
Williams moved to the Coast in 2002, just months before her mother passed away. Since then, Williams has looked to the memory of her mother for inspiration and has used painting to explore her own enduring feelings of loss and isolation.
"I used to do realistic portraits and architectural renderings," she says. "I used to be a real perfectionist. I would rip things up if they weren't just right. But to grow as an artist, you absolutely have to lose that kind of control. I learned that lesson when my mom died. I had no control over anything anymore; nothing I did was going to bring her back."
Accordingly, Williams' recent canvases are a far cry from rigid representation. Although still figurative, her paintings are inhabited by fanciful characters drawn from imagination, many of whom are coded or posed so as to express a hidden meaning or emotion. Williams acknowledges this reading of her work. "Symbolism is very important to me," she says. "Everything I do tells a story."
Although she is just 26, Williams' work has been in a number of national traveling art exhibits, most recently, "New American Talent 22," a juried competition that opened in Austin and will travel around America until 2009. Three of Williams' paintings were selected. "It was such a thrill to see 'Jackson, Mississippi' on that billboard in Austin. They listed Jackson third, before New York, even," she said, laughing.
Williams' work was also in a traveling exhibit titled "Katrina Remembered," which included other young Jackson artists like Josh Hailey and Jason Marlow. The show appeared across the nation, raising money for Katrina victims and awareness about the plight of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.
Williams' Katrina paintings will be in her upcoming show at the Cedars, opening Aug. 16. "Ginger Williams: A Solo Show" will be a retrospective of the past three years. Following that, Williams will be part of a group show at Icon Gallery/Swell-O-Phonic, opening Aug. 18. Although it may seem odd for someone so young to have a "retrospective," Williams has thought it through.
"It's been five years since my mom's death," she said, "and in all that time I've been very emotionally attached to my paintings. But I am finally ready to sell my work and move on. It's time to clean house and close up shop." When Williams said "close up shop," she meant "move to France," which she will do at the end of August. She has a clear reason for going. "When I was in France," she said, "I got to see every painting I ever loved. All my favorite artists, like Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, are French."
"Ginger Williams: A Solo Show" opens at the Cedars Aug. 16. Icon Gallery/Swell-O-Phonic presents "Chase Quarterman, Ginger Williams, Claire Whitehurst, Clay Hardwick and Dahne Nabors" on Aug. 18.
She's going to France? I'm so jealous...
Ginger is going to do big things in France. Mississippi, represent!