On April 1, 2021, Erie Arts & Culture welcomes our fourth visiting artist of 2021, Carl Joe Williams.
In early 2020, Erie Arts & Culture launched a visiting artist residency program in collaboration with Long Road Projects. Through this program, Erie Arts & Culture and Long Road Projects provide contemporary artists with dedicated time and space to reflect, research, and create new bodies of work – outside of their usual environments. This program also creates opportunities for new perspectives and creative processes to be shared, which in turn positively impacts the cultural and creative landscape in Northwestern Pennsylvania.
This visiting artist residency program is made possible through the generous support of a privately funded grant from The Erie Community Foundation.
Carl Joe Williams is a contemporary African American artist known for his multimedia paintings, sculpture, installations, and interdisciplinary works. He creates paintings and painted sculptures from found objects. Carl Joe describes his works as “symphonies of colors” that present a powerful visual experience.
Carl Joe’s visual interpretations are enhanced by his vision of art and music as extensions of one another. An accomplished musician as well as a visual artist, Carl Joe incorporates his musical compositions into videos and installations. Found objects play an important role in Williams’s works by becoming elements of a narrative continuum that addresses societal and historical concerns.
"Journeys," Carl Joe’s installation, was featured at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Atlanta, GA in 2002. His Sculptural Trees public art installation in Metairie, Louisiana was described as reminiscent of “lollipops in a Candyland forest,” with their custom acrylic light boxes attached to crepe myrtles.
Carl Joe was featured in the PBS special “State of the Art,” a one-hour documentary that captures the personal stories of seven diverse artists whose work was included in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s exhibition “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now.” The show was exhibited from September 2014 through January 2015. The exhibit featured 227 pieces of work from 100 under-recognized American artists.
Carl Joe is also Co-Founder of Blights Out, a Creative Capital supported project in New Orleans. In addition to Carl Joe, Blights Out was co-founded by artists Lisa Sigal and Imani Jacqueline Brown. Blights Out is a community- and artist-led initiative that activates agency in neighborhood development. The organization was initiated as part of Prospect New Orleans, the largest biennial of international contemporary art in the United States. Carl Joe will present on his work through Blights Out on Saturday, April 17 as part of Erie Arts & Culture’s Arts + Agency Week.
Carl Joe attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Art, where he received formal training. Williams continued his studies at Atlanta College of Art, where he earned his BFA.
Carl Joe has had a variety of exhibitions including at the George Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art (Biloxi, Mississippi), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Arts (Bentonville, Arkansas), New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans, Louisiana), McKenna Museum of African American Art (New Orleans, Louisiana), and Hammonds House Galleries (Atlanta, Georgia). In 2013, Carl Joe was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Center NOLA Studio Artist Residence Program.
2020 exhibitions include PerSister Incarcerated Women of Louisiana at Ford Foundation NYC, MOCA Jacksonville Project Atrium, Arthur Roger Art Gallery-Art in the Time of Empathy and Gryder Gallery The Effect of Color.
At my core, I'm a storyteller. My work over the years has evolved into a multiplicity of intuitive gestures inspired by the presence of Divine spark from mundane existence. My paintings, installations, media, and sculptures are a product of experiences of shared humanity; highlighting a long and deep historical continuum with African ancestors, as well as the rhythm of people, and places to help mold the character of harmonious link between color, music, sound, vibrations, nature, and water. I reformulate and edit video, multimedia sculpture, and projection installations to transform and inspire inquiry, regarding designated media transcripts upon my community and ancestors.
Deeply rooted in community, memory ancestors, and place, I search for universality and connection to chronicle the depiction of the current continuum. I have been exploring for the past two years the impact of the criminal justice system, systemic racism, and impact on people of color's lives and the ability to participate and evolve in this American experience.
My artwork takes a critical view of social, political, and quality of life view and cultural issues. The subject matter of each body of work determines the materials and the forms of the work. Each project consists of multiple works, often in a range of different media, grouped around specific themes and meanings. During research and production new areas of interest arise and lead to the next body of work.