The African-American artist Philemona Williamson (b. 1951) brings together personal and more universal narratives in her brightly colored, large format paintings that portray children and teenagers, often in mysterious situations. She paints directly onto her canvases without preliminary sketches and her paintings thus resemble palimpsests telling their own stories, with multiple layers, figures and scenes appearing across the support, before seemingly being abandoned. Williamson’s works are deeply rooted in her childhood memories and include references to memorabilia, such as dolls typical of American popular culture from the artist’s personal collection, and as such are an invitation to explore mysterious and unfinished tales.
Williamson has been exhibited in numerous American institutions, from her debut solo show at the Queens Museum of Art in 1988, to Metaphorical Narratives, at the Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey, in 2017, which spanned the thirty years of her artistic career. Her works can be seen in many public collections across the USA and she has been commissioned for several public projects, most notably by the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority. In 2022, she was one of fifteen recipients of the Anonymous Was A Woman prize, awarded annually since 1986 to women artists over the age of 40, in recognition of their previous and future work.