Philemona Williamson: In the Studio
Since the 1980s, the renowned contemporary artist and Montclair resident, Philemona Williamson (b. 1951) has created dynamic paintings featuring adolescents engaged in evocative poses and actions fraught with mystery and universal significance. They suggest various transitions and stages of life from childhood to adulthood. Of indeterminate age, gender, and ethnicity, the figures often seem caught in awkward, enigmatic moments which seduce the beholder 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.
Philemona Williamson: Metaphorical Narratives, the artist's first major museam retrospective, was on view at the Montclair Art Museum in Fall 2017. The Museum is delighted to extend the viewing of this site-specific installation in the Laurie Art Stairway through Summer 2018.
Williamson maintains her studio in East Orange, New Jersey where she is inspired by her memories, experiences, and a range of objects, including a lifelong fascination with dolls. This largescale composite photograph printed on Poplin titled In the Studio is based on her “Inspiration Wall,” where she has mounted a variety of dolls, including one from Greece. Also represented are a child’s chair, a sculpture of a girl with a watering can, variously sized vintage clothing and undergarments, and, to the left, large dried leaves that are prominently featured in some of her recent paintings. The backdrop of colorful printed wall papers includes various patterns such as that of the abstracted African figurines in one of her recent paintings, Pink and White Honey. Very involved with the artist’s world of the studio, Williamson is inviting the viewer into the environment that inspires her, replete with the patterns and objects that influence her. In the artist’s words, they “relate to the imagination and innocence of childhood, for example, their clothing and what dolls evoke in you as you play with them.”