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Reflections on the Critique with Kerry James Marshall: Everett Williams

On September 10, 2010 three artists participated in the Open Crit sessions at Hyde Park Art Center. As always, the session is mediated by photographer and HPAC board member Dawoud Bey, and led by an invited artist.

This particular session had Kerry James Marshall as the guest critic. Chicago artist Everett Williams was one of the artists that participated in this session and as a follow up to the critique, I asked Williams some questions about his experience.

Kerry James Marshall examines and discusses the work of Everett Williams at Hyde Park Art Center, September 2010

Tempestt Hazel: It takes a lot of courage to present your work in an open forum such as the one you participated in at Hyde Park Art Center, let alone put it in front of a master artist such as Kerry James Marshall. What did you expect to get out of this experience, and why did you think that at this point in your career it was a good idea to do this?

Everett Williams: I want my work to be seen with the best, so at this juncture of my career I need feed back from those who I think know what they are talking about. I am little bit older than the other participants, and I don’t have time to waste. The kind of feedback I got that Friday night I would have gladly paid for but I got it for free.

TH: How did this experience exceed, meet or come short of your expectations? How did this experience and audience reaction differ from other conversations you’ve had about your work?

EW: It feel short only in the since that I wanted more feed back. I was surprised when he told me that I had too much imagery, and I needed to simplify. In other conversations I had had with artist and academics, the wrapped letters and the images behind them worked well together. I plan on shooting another series where I follow Kerry James advice but I will not discard this current body of work. I will just expand it.

TH: What are some of the most important things that you gained walking out of the critique?

EW: The critique is a give and take venue–it is a debate. It was my job to defend my work. I don’t feel I did an adequate job. I will be better prepared in the future.

TH: How will this change the way you approach your current work, creative practice, conceptual themes and how you approach your work in the future?

EW: It won’t change how I work substantially. He did not challenge my concept and concept is the most important aspect of your work. I was clear about what I wanted to say, and he got that. He challenged my execution, feeling that I had gone to far with the layered images and therefore weakened my message. A progression from a very simply image to a more complex image is what I feel I need to add to my series.

TH: Kerry James Marshall spoke a lot about the importance of work that speaks to art history. What artists and concepts have you looked to in the past or plan on looking towards in the future in relation to your work?

Everett Williams, Ken Smikle and Dawoud Bey at Hyde Park Art Center Open Crit, September 2010

EW: My work is based in historical references. The idea of making pictures of the individual letters is a direct reference to Edward Weston‘s photos of green peppers, and there have been a succession on painters and photographers who have produced images of single objects that were more than documentary. Working with language I drew influence from Cy Towmbly, Ed Ruscha and Shannon Ebner. Leslie Hewitt who constructs still life’s and then photographs them and Hank Willis Thomas who uses images in a postproduction manner . I am studying constantly to become aware of where the art discussion is going so I can join in.

TH: He also spoke a lot about the arena in which you want your work to exist. What arena does your work currently exist in and what arena are you trying to have your work in? Where do you want your work to be?

EW: I’m interested in the Contemporary Fine Art arena, its museums and galleries. I want to join artists like Kerry James Marshall, Dawoud Bey, Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, Ed Ruscha, and Shannon Ebner on museum walls.

Learn more about Everett Williams’ work at www.ecwfinearts.com.

Find out how you can participate in an Open Crit session at Hyde Park Art Center by visiting www.hydeparkart.org.