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Brittney Leeanne Williamsí McColl Center residency isnít for rest
Los Angeles artist inspired to go big in Charlotte
Published Thursday, October 17, 2019 10:14 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

McColl Center artist-in-residence Brittney Leeanne Williams.

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Brittney Leeanne Williams is in a new season.

From her warehouse space studio in Chicago’s Garfield Park to a residency in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward in a refurbished gothic-style church at McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Williams’ biggest goal is to rest. Her residency runs through Dec. 3, and upon stepping into her studio, it looks like anything but an artist moving at a slower pace.

“Rest looks really different for a lot of people,” Williams said. “Rest, to me, means slowing down. I specifically applied to the McColl to slow down. I know you’re saying you’re seeing a lot of work, but for me this is like a shift in pace around how I’m painting.”

Williams’ time in Charlotte also gives her an opportunity to go bigger physically. Her work traditionally falls under the category of mid-size to smaller pieces, but she wants to see what happens when she creates larger pieces. Expect to see what she described as “really big painting of really big bodies.”

“Another goal, other than slowing down and rethinking about the things that I’ve already been meditating on is playing with scale,” Williams said. “I know that sounds maybe like a contradiction, but I’m really excited to play with the quality of my work—to spend more time with one piece or a few pieces while also going a lot larger to see what happens when there is kind of this dance between the audience or the viewer, and the work at a different scale.”

Williams’ time here also allows her to explore deeply rooted habits that have served her well. Creating something on a daily basis, for instance, is among those habits.

“I’m really thankful for the habits I have made over the years,” she said. “You can see these 8-inch x 11 or even smaller works near my desk—I make hundreds of those. I now call them studies. I originally was thinking about them as sketches, these quick, very visceral and unintimidating works. That’s always happening. While I’ve been here that hasn’t been happening.”

Being present is key for Williams’ time at the McColl, whether that means reading or taking in local art.

“I definitely want to leave here with new questions, new interests, and I think that will happen,” she said. “Right now, I’m rethinking how I’m using red. My palate has radically changed since getting here. It feels radical for me. I’m still using red, but very different in relationship to a lot of new colors.”

Williams found art at a young age when she was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“Around third grade, I was kind of going through a mini-elementary school crisis,” Williams said. “Our worlds are so small at that age, and so anything that claims you as different is the most major problem ever. I was really struggling with my belief in my intelligence and my abilities. Around the same time, my mom had been taking me and my sister—I have a great mother who tried to inundate us with different experiences around culture. We went to the Norton Simon Museum. I remember seeing a Monet, and I was radically affected. I don’t know how to describe that encounter, but it was a really important encounter for me, and it was a catalyst to where I’m at now. Being in such a vulnerable state around my intelligence propelled me to want to find something that was fitting that I could kind of take ownership of.”


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