Earth, Sky, Water
In Earth, Sky, Water, artists Mindy Flexer and Michael Williamson reflect on their individual identities and family histories, and a hope for personal and cultural transformation offered by contemplation of our current moment. These collected paintings parse questions of belonging, inheritance, and survival. A sense of interconnectedness between past and present, and among living beings on Earth, suffuses visual spaces which span the distance between what is real and imaginary, what is remembered and what is possible.
Michael Williamson’s latest body of work emerged during the pandemic. The profound silence and loneliness of quarantine inspired art and analysis reflecting his own time and condition. Motivated by isolation to study and explore, Williamson began to unearth personal, ancestral histories rooted in Philadelphia, Virginia, South Carolina, and West Africa. The resulting works, constructed through layers of paint and collage, are sourced from a repository of salvaged paintings, prints, and archival fragments. The images are based on reflection, imagination, and some observational drawings from life.
"The landscape and rude dwellings of my enslaved ancestors emerge tentatively in a few of these works. How could they have imagined my life in the 21st century? How can I imagine their lives hundreds of years ago? In these works, I strive to conjure the past, exalt the beauty of the land as it was and as it is. For me, it is a land of savage beauty, showered in gold."
Mindy Flexer’s paintings embody a spirit of interconnection and transformation. Flexer crafts a magical world, where people and creatures gather and separate, always connected to each other, to their ancestors, and to their descendants. A synergy of opposing forces defines this ever-changing web of connection: observation and invention; accurate drawing and gestural brushwork; realistic, three-dimensional form and abstract, flat shape.
This series began with origami and toys, and led to an exploration of her family’s history within time’s sweep. World War II and the ensuing pursuit of security shaped her grandparents and parents. Her own life is shaped by nuclear threat, climate emergency, and tikkun olam, the moral imperative she shares with her ancestors. Her paintings are a call to action, to work together in this extraordinary moment to create transformation rather than destruction.
"Climate emergency is the ultimate illustration of the powerful truth that we are all in it together – not just humanity, but every living thing on earth. During my brief time here, my work is to use the mighty force of art to honor my ancestors and celebrate my descendants by joining in tikkun olam, the moral imperative to repair and remake the world."