January 19, 2010
When you stare into Sarah Williams' nightscape paintings, it's almost as if your eyes begin to adjust to the night sky -- as if your pupils are actually dilating to let in more light: soft shapes appear (a lamp post or tree in the distance); shadows present themselves on a dark pavement; the horizon seems to shift; and subtle colors emerge from dusk.
Population 4,769 is Sarah Williams' second show and first solo exhibition at the McMurtrey Gallery (on view January 16 - February 13, 2010). I met the artist on Saturday afternoon, just before the Opening. She thoughtfully led me through this body of work, which focuses on scenes from her rural Midwestern roots (hometown: Brookfield, Missouri), along with some Texas locations. Based in Denton, Ms. Williams is a recent MFA graduate of the University of North Texas and currently an adjunct professor at UNT.
Brooks Street, 2009, oil on board, 18" x 18"
Kirksville, 2009, oil on board, 18" x 30"
"Being raised in a small town and then moving to an urban setting for my education has made me aware of the seemingly mundane, anonymous scenes existing on the periphery that tend to be ignored. Strong emotions can be prompted by place. ... Important aspects to my current work are the feelings related to the atmosphere of the environment depicted. Whether it be the soupy blackness of the sky, a faint glow on the horizon or the wet pavement after the rain, these are very much part of the distinctiveness of a place." (Sarah Williams)
I also like this comparison, stated by Robert Jessup: "Her paintings often depict lonely places, the air thick with isolation and dread, like an image by Hopper crossed with a scene from a Cohen brothers' movie."
Indeed, there is a sense of loneliness/anonymity that intersects with the warmth of light and the specificity of location and weather.
In her snowscapes, like Callio, you take in scenes of fresh tracks on packed snow, red bows of Christmastime, evidence of deer season, buildings hiding in long winter shadows and the absence of people (tucked indoors, out of the cold).
When you exhale, you feel you'll see your breath.
Tune in for an interview with artist Sarah Williams in the coming weeks on "The Front Row"!
Images courtesy of the artist & the McMurtrey Gallery