I'm an image! A logotype design for "Philemona Williamson: Metaphorical Narratives" on a white background.


Philemona Williamson: Metaphorical Narratives

September 16, 2017-January 7, 2018

I paint figures depicting individuals of varying ethnicities inhabiting timeless, invented, dream-like environments, I probe the psychological landscape of adolescence, blurring the lines between race, gender, and class.

— Philemona Williamson, 2009

This exhibition presents twenty paintings by the renowned contemporary artist, Philemona Williamson (b. 1951), spanning her career from 1988 to the present.

Williamson’s dynamic paintings feature adolescents intermingled and engaged in evocative poses and actions fraught with mystery and universal significance. They suggest various transitions and stages of life from childhood through adulthood. Of indeterminate age, gender, and ethnicity, the figures often seem caught in awkward, enigmatic moments which seduce the viewer into a labyrinth of open-ended questions.

Poetically titled, these works invite the viewers to use their imaginations to try to decipher their complex narratives. The artist’s use of vibrant colors and firmly modeled, yet elemental, generalized forms within timeless, invented spaces is the foundation for her skillful negotiation between abstraction and representation, dream and reality, metaphor and narrative. Her three-part exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum is presented in the Constable Rotunda, Roberts, and Laurie Art Stairway galleries.

Williamson lives in Upper Montclair and maintains her studio in East Orange, New Jersey. Educated in the fine arts at Bennington College and New York University, she was encouraged by a meeting in the 1980s with the artist Romare Bearden. Two works by Bearden are on view in the Museum’s Lehman Court. His autobiographical work inspired her to follow her heart to delve into personal childhood memories.

Gail Stavitsky, Chief Curator

Lora S. Urbanelli, Director

Explore more of Williamson's work on her website.