Hovering Tales, an exhibition of new
paintings by Philemona Williamson — visual narratives that intrigue
with disquieting depictions of the edginess of imagination and
curiosity between adolescence and adulthood - will open at the June
Kelly Gallery, 166 Mercer Street, on October 13. The exhibition
will remain on view until November 14.
Williamson says she is an observer of human behavior,
and while longtime fascinated with the innocence and wonder of
pubescent youth and its inevitable progression toward adulthood, she
finds this current culture yields yet a plethora of notions.
Here, in Hovering Tales, Williamson
exhibits her fabled energetic adolescent figures, raw with instinct,
in the throes and entanglement of play, in the pause of curiosity or
on the precipice of a happening while introducing figures which
appear older, assertive, more secure in diverse scenarios,
reflecting a solemnity and awareness beyond the immediacy of
Just as Williamson is not hesitant in
depicting vulnerability of the adolescent, she conveys through
sobriety of expression and stillness of form, a pensiveness
suggestive of grappling with alienation and curiosity, in search of
identity amid commonplace tempests in the growth to maturity.
Williamson uses the power of color and
symbolism to rouse the psyche in contemplation of her narratives.
According to her storyline, her palettes include bright colors and
limitless horizons as well as hues reflecting deeper, darker and
more somber consciousness.
Williamson’s work continues to teeter on the
edge of satire and innovation. Her use of signature elements
infusing curiosity while providing stratagem to her conundrums is
familiar. Perhaps the white lotus blossoms with Japanese meaning
“attaining enlightenment” heightens suggestion of the maturing young
girl, which Williamson painted in transparent tones in Unexpected
Drawing lines remain visible under pigment on
her canvas, indicative, Williamson says, of her process in
development of the work. Allowing the drawings to show through
is pulling the curtain back on her process same as painting the
figure with transparency reveals strength of the subject.
Williamson delves into contemporary themes
that mystify and in execution she shifts her narratives often in
unexpected ways yet she never fully reveals her thinking.
Williamson, a native New Yorker, received a
bachelor's degree from Bennington College and a master’s degree in
painting from New York University. Among her awards are a Joan
Mitchell Foundation grant, Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant and a
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been
shown in many one-person and group exhibitions throughout the United
States and abroad, including the IV Bienal Internacional de Pintura
en Cuenca, Ecuador, in 1994. She is represented in numerous private
and public collections, including The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte,
North Carolina; Hampton University Museum, VA;
Sheldon Art Museum, University
of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE; Smith College of Art, Northampton, MA,
Williamson is having her
first major museum solo exhibition, Philemona Williamson: Metaphorical Narratives at the Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey
from September 15, 2017 through January 6, 2018. A catalogue
accompanies the exhibition with an essay by the chief curator Gail Stavitsky.