Sarah Williams is an artist who grew up in rural Missouri. She tells a wonderful story of being in graduate school in a big city. The choice of a city was deliberate, and meant to challenge her and expose her – which it did with art galleries and museums (as well as crazy drivers and general navigation.) In a natural effort to combat homesickness the subject matter for her art criticism classes became places from home. This childhood influence of, and connection to, small town farm culture luckily has yet to leave her and has shaped her present body of work. As Ms. Williams puts it, “I am drawn to areas and structures that show character acquired from the history and memory of the people that formed that environment.” While the places she paints are particular to her story, they are familiar scenes, and the nocturnal images create a universal mood of isolation and quiet.
Ms. Williams’ photo-realistic oil paintings bring to mind the night scenes of Edward Hopper. But Ms. Williams’ work is not really somber and lonely in the way of Hopper. So while the scenes are at night, they are not eerie. People do not populate her pictures, but their presence is known by the lights inside the house. Ms. Williams has edited out the surroundings with the enveloping darkness that contrasts dramatically to the glowing light. She uses this light to strengthen the image of an otherwise unremarkable place. The saturated color created by the glow of the incandescent light draws us in as well as repels us with the dramatic effects of the darkness around the light. The result is beautiful. The ordinary is swept into the extraordinary, giving the ubiquitous subject an unexpected but intended reverence.
Ms. Williams has said she likes the idea of bringing small town life to the art scene in urban areas through her exhibitions. Pictures of her paintings do not do them justice. They simply cannot show the amazing amount of color that she actually uses to create the dark areas. She is a very talented young artist, and you can see her work on exhibition at McMurtrey Gallery until April 20th – 3508 Lake Street in Houston.