WELCOME TO M2057's SPOTLIGHT SERIES: IN HER OWN WORDS, WHICH FEATURES DYNAMIC, STYLISH, AND POWERFUL WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US.
THIS MONTH WE CHATTED WITH ARTIST AMANDA WILLIAMS.
A Chicago native, Amanda Williams is a visual artist with an architectural background. She describes her installations, paintings, and works on paper as a combination of “color, race, space, and value”, exploring the “invisible policies and forces that have misshapen most inner cities”. Amanda’s art has been exhibited all over the country and is featured in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
SPECIAL THANKS TO LEAH MISSBACH DAY FOR THE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THIS SPOTLIGHT.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST Freedom. Art and the arts have been my conduit to an autonomous lifestyle. I’ve carved out a career from a passion. It’s liberating and such a gift that my husband and I can demonstrate that choice for our daughters.
MY FEMALE INSPIRATIONS I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by strong women at every stage of both my architectural and art journeys. From collectors, to curators, arts administrators, funders and fellow artists. So many quiet but powerful allies are always modeling deliberate and strategic decision making for me. My “kitchen cabinet” is fierce. But I’d like to highlight that this wealth of behind the scenes support is a testament to an era in which so many women who’ve come through the ranks together are simultaneously occupying true positions of power across all segments of the arts and culture world. They have a deep understanding of whose story (and career trajectory) has and has not historically been foregrounded. They are using their roles to spread power, not hoard it.
HOW BEING FEMALE SHAPES MY ART OR NARRATIVE This is a complicated and loaded idea, one that men are never asked about. It begins with an implied lack. My blackness and womanness are intertwined in a way that don’t benefit from being dissected. Don’t get me wrong— black, Chicago, women are bosses! But is it my Auburn Gresham-ness, my private school education-ness, my oldest child-ness, my two parent household-ness, my straight-ness, etc. that has most shaped my path? My latest work, What Black Is This, You Say? really pokes at questions of identity in an irreverent, satirical and aesthetically interesting way. We humans like buckets of familiar narratives that are at once comforting and oppressive. Condoleeza Rice and Assata Shakur are both strong black women. Just because my politics align with only one of them, doesn’t not negate the fact that the other actively shows up as a powerful presence in the world. When you embrace that truth, then you have to acknowledge that race is an assured absurdity but such an inextricable component of our collective DNA.
HOW THE ART INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED I don’t know that it has. There is a lot of recent (media) attention around the seeming resurgence of collecting the work of black artists; I obviously benefit from that narrative, but when you examine the numbers (and the money), the industry is overwhelmingly beneficial to white men.
WHAT STILL NEEDS TO CHANGE The Arts as a sector are a microcosm of society. The same ills we are facing globally are the things that have to be actively interrogated in the arts—people in power need to have a deep reckoning with unearned privilege and the impact that has on cultural production across the spectrum.
WHERE I FIND INSPIRATION FOR MY WORK Everywhere. Color tends to play the leading role; I see chromatic meaning in everything. I’m like the character in A Beautiful Mind. It’s dual importance as a medium/material and a racial signifier constantly makes itself apparent.
WHAT I WANT VIEWERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM MY ART More questions than answers.