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UNCC pairís creativity earn them a spot at Chicago juried exhibition
Ajane Williams, Malik Norman show through July 4
Published Friday, May 14, 2021 1:00 am
by Ashley Mahoney

UNC Charlotte seniors Ajane' K. Williams and Malik J. Norman have been selected for the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition in Chicago.

Two UNC Charlotte students have been accepted into the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition in Chicago.

Seniors Ajane’ K. Williams and Malik J. Norman were selected for the Museum of Science + Industry Chicago’s longest-running exhibition of Black art, which has been annually displayed at MSI since 1970. The exhibit features paintings, drawings, fine art prints, sculpture, ceramics, mixed-media and photography. It runs through July 4, and Williams and Norman may take a road trip to Chicago to see their work.

In addition to being classmates, the duo previously had their work featured in the same show last summer in “H20/20, Elemental Retribution” at the Gallery C3 at C3 Lab.

Norman’s photographs “Still Life # 4” and “Reaching Beyond the Line” were selected for the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition. Williams’s “Untitled II” painting was also selected. It explores the subconscious response to transgenerational trauma and features gold to represent validation.

Williams is a painter who took a winding road to her passion. Becoming a professional basketball player was her original plan, but when she tore her ACL her junior year of high school, her time with the sport came to an end. Painting helped pass the time during her recovery, but a career as an artist did not sound like a viable option to her military family. She initially pursued an associate’s degree in science at Wake Tech Community College, but fate had other plans.

“I got to college my first year and said I was going to be realistic and become a physical therapist,” Williams said. “The very first semester, I was picking out my classes, and it said I had to take one fine art class to get my associate’s. That was the only class I was excited about. I get into the class, and toward the middle of the semester my professor came up to me and asked, ‘what are you getting your associates in?’ I said, ‘I am getting my associates in science.’ She was like, ‘no, that is not for you at all, because you seem so passionate about art.’ I said, ‘I have to get a financially stable job, because that is what my parents want for me.’ She said, ‘no, you can get a job with an associate’s in fine arts.”

Williams transferred to Appalachian State University the next year to pursue the fine arts track, telling her mom she would minor in business to make her happy. A business minor was never part of the picture. Now she has two more semesters at UNCC before completing her degree with a concentration in painting.

Yet if you ask Williams, she considers herself a creator rather than a painter. A concentration in painting happened to align with the classes she was taking at the time.

“I like doing film,” said Williams, who is also learning how to DJ. “I love doing video art performance. I love music. I feel like I am still exploring who I am as an artist.”

Said Norman: “Ajane’ K. Williams is an extraordinary creative mind. She thinks so abstractly and is so adept at her work and she is a painter, and I know nothing about painting. The intention of why she paints and where it comes from and her history with it is awe inspiring to be able to connect to who you are through what you do. Watch her.”

Norman is a BFA candidate in photography and the 2020 recipient of The Post’s Mary Mahoney Memorial Scholarship. His focus rests on his senior thesis, “Visual Waters of Mineral Springs: Western Union School” at UNC Charlotte’s Rowe Gallery, which will be on view May 13-16.

“We are almost at the finish line,” Norman said. “I am almost there at the end, and it is like, ‘all right, this is how we want to live our life. This is the portion of our purpose.’”

Norman wants his work to be a catalyst for empowering others, which he said takes other skillsets beyond making and creating. While he is a creator, he has to be more and do more, such as managing projects. Ultimately, being true to himself defines his purpose.

“I am a creative, but that is not all I am going to be,” Norman said. “I am so thankful for this art department. I really challenged myself with my thesis this year to just hone into my voice to see if I have learned the skills that have been taught to me through conversations with professors and critiques, because that is what it is like when you step out into the world. You still have your community that you can tap into and get their feedback, but are you creating true to yourself?”

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