AINTER and mixed-media artist
James L. Williams grew up
in Winston-Salem, North
Carolina, before moving
to attend high school at a
military academy in Virginia.
During his high school years,
Williams didn’t have the opportunity to take many
art classes, but he did have access to the school
library’s collection of art books.
“In high school I was making a little bit of art,”
he explains. “We didn’t have an art class, but we
had art books, so I was reading about it more
than I was actually making it.” This early exposure
gave rise to a persistent interest in research and
love of reading about art that plays a prominent
role in Williams’ art and teaching practices. When
Williams later attended the University of North
Carolina Greensboro to complete his gradu-ate
impressive library. These books, as much as the
artwork by historic painters, were an important
inspiration for him.
“It triggers new ideas when you see artists
and books that you’ve never seen before. I would
check out 20 books at a time and take them back
to my studio and learn what artists were making
and talking about,” Williams says.
His intellectual relationship to painting is
particularly clear in the names that he gives his
work. Pieces in the “Making New Connections,”
“I’m Not There Yet” and “Lost and Found to Woven
Possibilities” series reveal the complex thought pro-cesses
drawings, which helped his young mind work
through the ways that objects and environments
fit together. But Williams initially planned to study
environmental science when he arrived as a fresh-man
degree, he was thrilled to have access to its
behind his art practice.
Williams says he always had an interest in and
knack for art. He describes early forays into art-making
as similar to mechanical or engineering
at Ferrum College in Virginia.
“The chemistry and math were going to be a
little challenging,” Williams explains with a good-natured
laugh. “So, I decided that I would take up
art there instead.”
James L. Williams works in his home studio
in Wilmington on the latest addition to his
Cartography series, a mixed-media piece on a
74 x 98-inch canvas.
PHOTO BY ALLISON POTTER