Artist Amanda Williams transforms the South Side through color: Award-winning artist to round-up COD’s spring Visiting Artist series
April 12, 2017
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Through artist Amanda Williams’ eyes, colors take on a whole new meaning. They’re not just primary, secondary or tertiary. Yellow isn’t happiness. Red isn’t passion. Black isn’t hopeless. Instead, the 2014 Stan 3Arts Lipkin & Evelyn Appell Lipkin Awardee, Cornell University graduate and future Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA) exhibitor connects color with privilege, poverty, gentrification and more.
In Williams’ Color(ed) Theory series, the artist has splashed South Side communities, where she grew up in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, with bright colors that contrast their environments. Williams does this through the discovery of abandoned homes, taking their once broken and graffiti-covered exteriors and turning them into simple marvels.
“This palette combines my Ivy League academic training as an architect with my lived sensibility as a South Side native,” said Williams’ in a 2016 interview with the National Endowment for the Arts. “I’m working on a system that imagines artful ways to construct new narratives about zero value landscapes that will allow them to shed an identity of victim and embrace instead the role of active protagonist.”
The palette includes Harold’s Chicken Shack: a bright red. Newport 100/Loose squares: a dull teal. Ultrasheen: a bright turquoise. Pink Oil Moisturizer: a baby pink.
“Color as both a medium and a social construct is the subject that fuels much of my work,” explained Williams’ in an interview with the Courier. “This double reading of color and its intersection with urban space is evident in much of my recent work.”
The color takes over every inch of these buildings. Windows, pillars, stairs and porches take on a new life after Williams’ work has touched them. These colors come from a self-created scheme that connect the life and culture of the South Side to different issues.
Color(ed) Theory has been presented in many different ways at several galleries over the past four years such as Columbia College Chicago, UIC, The Silverroom Gallery and the Hyde Park Art Center. Most recently, it will be exhibited at the MCA beginning in July of this year until December.
Installation is not the only style Williams works in. The artist initially attended Cornell University for architecture, taking numerous studio art courses before she even considered turning her career towards art.
Williams’ oil and mixed media paintings reflect a tormented, emotional side with some containing allusions to the South Side. Others, such as her 2006 work, “The Ordeal” leave more questions unanswered. The canvas softly reads, “At times my going forward feels like retreat,” as it is covered with reds, yellows, blues and gives you the sense of a deep, internal war that is human and understandable.
More of Williams’ art, such as her mapping, may be viewed at awgallery.com.
When asked about her favorite medium to work in, Williams laughs and connects it to having children, and its impossibility of choosing a favorite.
Currently, Williams is a part of the multidisciplinary Exhibition Design team for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and resides in Bronzeville.
Williams will be visiting the college from 11 a.m. to 11:50 on April 9 in MAC 205 to lecture as a part of the Visiting Artist series. The event is free and open to the public.
“Students can look forward to seeing and hearing a lecture about my very process-driven and haptic artistic practice,” said Williams. “I will present a series of projects that show a variety of ways I’m exploring questions of race and space; how they manifest visually, but also how I continue to use my practice to ask more refined questions of myself instead of trying to use the work to posit answers.”