This semester, we are welcoming Antoine Williams into our art department! Antoine is a recent graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, where he received an MFA in studio art. Although he’s been teaching in academia for a while, it is clear that Antoine is very much a practicing artist. In looking at his work (check out his website) and in taking his 2-D Design Course (which I am so pleased to be a part of) it is clear that Antoine thrives in multiple mediums, which include installation pieces, painting and collage. As contemporary art, Antoine’s work displays a combination of these mediums that present themes and signifiers that denote power, race, class, and masculinity.
When I sat down with Antoine, our conversation was largely based around his work, as well as the significance of art in academia and culture today. Antoine started by stating that there is no art literate public in America. He went on to explain that as a society we have not been conditioned to look at contemporary art and that for many people art stops at impressionism. Antoine makes the point that there really is no form of mainstream contemporary art today, and yet there is SO MUCH HAPPENING! As a teacher and an artist, Antoine tries to show that art is a part of our daily lives—it’s in the pictures we take with our camera phones, what we post online, the way we dress, and in the way we carry ourselves. By teaching students to recognize that art exists outside of the classroom, Antoine hopes that students will start to see art in a different context and will start to appreciate what it takes to make art, even if they do not identify as an artist themselves.
Art matters. Antoine made the point that young kids who are exposed to art tend to be more tolerant because they are confronted with things they may not have experienced yet. This confrontation prompts children to understand things that they may not otherwise be aware of. Currently schools are cutting funds for the arts, which not only deepens our nation’s art illiteracy, but also threatens our society. The best remedy for this predicament is to help people from all backgrounds recognize the value and influence of art.
Strangely enough, Antoine holds artists and art institutions responsible for the current disconnect between art and society. Antoine explained that growing up, art was something that he always liked to do, but it was not a part of his working class lifestyle. It wasn’t until going to undergrad that he was exposed to a different perspective. In general, art in academia is a mainly white and privileged area of study. Being on the outside of this, Antoine questioned the exclusion he had been exposed to and realized that the implications of this question is hugely relevant to the state of our society. The way Antoine framed this issue is that in our society knowledge, intelligence and creativity are placed into a bubble, indicating who is privileged and who is not. But that’s not how the world works—the people who are in school are not the only intelligent and creative people, they’ve just been presented with more opportunities. And so, Antoine’s goal in life—as a teacher and artist—is to break down this divide and bring these two worlds together.
As he starts off here, Antoine hopes to bring perspective to Guilford—offering his take on art as well as bringing art outside of Hege Coxs’ walls. When I asked Antoine what he was hoping to receive from Guilford in exchange, he explained that he is most looking forward to interacting with the students and the resources that we have to share. With that, I’ll leave you with some advice from Antoine:
- DO EVERYTHING—and don’t hesitate to make work.
- Explore what you’re doing, find people who are doing what you are doing, and look at who they are looking at. These are three of the Blogs that Antoine is looking at—maybe they’ll inspire you, too:
- Consume as much as you can, and figure out what you like; then, put you into your art. For example, Antoine likes hip-hop, monster movies and sci-fi—you’ll see it in his work.
- Be honest with yourself and never lose faith.
Let’s give him a warm welcome, Guilford!