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Peter Williams in the studio.

For more than 40 years Williams has chronicled current and historical events, interspersing pictorial narratives with personal anecdotes and fictional characters in order to create paintings about the diverse experiences of Black Americans. With boldness and humor, he tackles the darkest of subjects including, but not limited to, police brutality, lynching, slavery, mass incarceration, and other realms of racial oppression. Williams uses cultural criticism to form new creation myths, retelling the history of America from fresh and cosmic perspectives.

Peter Williams lives in Wilmington, DE and is Senior Professor in the Fine Arts Department at the University of Delaware. He earned his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and his BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. His paintings are held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Howard University, Washington DC; Wayne State University, Detroit: Davis Museum at Wellesley College, MA; CCH Pounder Collection, New Orleans; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; the Mott-Warsh Collection in Flint, MI; The Bunker/Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Palm Beach; Jorge Perez Collection, Miami; Bill and Christy Gautreaux, Kansas City; and the McEvoy Collection, San Francisco, among others.

Peter Williams The Adventures, 2015

Peter Williams
The Adventures, 2015
Oil on canvas
30 x 24 in.

Peter Williams The Arrival, 2015

Peter Williams
The Arrival, 2015
Oil on canvas
30 x 30 in.

Peter Williams Night Clubbing in New York, 2015

Peter Williams
Night Clubbing in New York, 2015
Oil on canvas
30 x 30 in.

Peter Williams Pow!, 2015

Peter Williams
Pow!, 2015
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 in.

Peter Williams Salute, 2015

Peter Williams
Salute, 2015
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 in.

Peter Williams Childhood Schooling, 2015

Peter Williams
Childhood Schooling, 2015
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 in.

Peter Williams I Can't Breath, 2015

Peter Williams
I Can't Breath, 2015
Oil on canvas
30 x 40 in.

Peter Williams Natural Selection, 2015

Peter Williams
Natural Selection, 2015
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 in.

Peter Williams Political Theatre, 2015

Peter Williams
Political Theatre, 2015
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 in.

Peter Williams Flag Day, 2015

Peter Williams
Flag Day, 2015
Oil on canvas
30 x 24 in.

Peter Williams Sandra Bland, 2016

Peter Williams
Sandra Bland, 2016
Oil on canvas
38 x 38 in.

Peter Williams Libertas at the Circus, 2015

Peter Williams
Libertas at the Circus, 2015
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 in.

Peter Williams Evening with Libertas, 2015

Peter Williams
Evening with Libertas, 2015
Oil on canvas
30 x 24 in.

Peter Williams Word, 2015

Peter Williams
Word, 2015
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 in.

Peter Williams The Kiss, 2015

Peter Williams
The Kiss, 2015
Oil on canvas
18 x 18 in.

Peter Williams Libertas and a Horse of Another Color, 2016

Peter Williams
Libertas and a Horse of Another Color, 2016
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 in.

Peter Williams Bam!, 2016

Peter Williams
Bam!, 2016
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Boom, 2016

Peter Williams
Boom, 2016
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Duck Soup, A Comedy, 2016

Peter Williams
Duck Soup, A Comedy, 2016
Oil on canvas
49 x 68 in.

In 2015, Williams began a second series of paintings in response to the succession of reported killings and murders of unarmed African Americans, featuring an African American superhero named "The N-Word".  Some of these paintings in this group make specific reference to Eric Garner, who on July 14, 2015 died from reckless actions committed by police officers in Staten Island. Garner was recorded on an eyewitness video saying eleven times "I can't breathe," prior to his losing consciousness.  In Williams series, caricature is reserved for the perpetrator as white police officers are tranformed into pigs and fang-bearing vampires wielding phallic clubs and batons.  Enter the N-Word, ostensibly a riff on the superhero figue popularized in comic books, television and film.  As a hero, The N-Word is also a symbol - a living image that captures images.  Garbed in the yellow and red of the familiar Kodak "K" logo that was discontinued in 2006, The N-Word is saying "I saw this and I see you."  He captures images as an act of active, rather than passive witnessing. ... He harnesses the power of a negative word, summoned so often as a tool to degrade, and reverses it's meaning and use by redirecting it toward those who wield it.

In Williams paintings, the N-word itself is never written or spoken, it is felt, manifested as redistributed action.  By not speaking the word, and re-purposing it against those who speak it, the bondage of its original and perverse meaning is transcended.  Protest speech solidifies into direct action, as the disenfranchised, repeatedly told to wait their turn to speak, bypasses speech entirely and moves into militant measures.  The N-Word is a timely hero in the age of the Black Lives Matter movement, when the force of the spoken pleas "Stop, don't shoot!" and "I can't breathe," have been transformed into direct, targeted action.  The power of these words matter, and they have fueled a movement. - Ryan Standfest for The N-Word catalog, A Rotland Press Original

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