Jennie Williams, who is a painter, collagist and assemblage artist, attended MU for a year before transferring to the Kansas City Art Institute, where she earned an undergraduate degree in fine arts. At 39, the Fulton-born artist has made Columbia her home with her son, Dane, 4.
Williams was always drawn to the visual arts as a child and as she grew up it became more prominent.
For three years, her artwork has hung at the Uprise Bakery in downtown Columbia. Williams says displaying her work there keeps her motivated to make new pieces.
Williams does not have a set color palette for her acrylic and watercolor paints but describes it as semihappy.
“I’m in the bubblegum-pink phase right now,” she said. “Sometimes I’m really drawn to neutrals, but I’m not afraid to use color.”
Williams mixes most of the colors to make her art more personal. She says her subjects and use of color depend on whatever she feels like painting any given day.
“Unfortunately, it’s that simple,” Williams said.
Williams says her ideas come from basic daily experiences that creep into her subconscious and are somehow motivating. Subjects that interest her include biology, music, retro crafts and collecting rocks.
Q How attached are you to your art?
A I have a very select few that I won’t part with for some reason. Sometimes I ask myself why. I think the imagery represents something from my childhood, something sentimental. For the most part, I’d be happy to part with my work; I don’t see a reason to hang on to it. It’s important, but I’m happy to share it if someone sees something in it and enjoys it. That inspires me, too.
Q What are your sources of inspiration?
A A vintage textbook on calligraphy; it has these fascinating graphic images and it works well with some of my quirky imagery. Or simply seeing my son drawing, things in nature, my cats and my sister’s sculptures. As for the huggers, they give me a chance to paint something childlike. They are maybe even a little bit corny, which is why I like them. I don’t want to take myself too seriously and hopefully they reveal this.
Q How would you describe your particular style of art?
A I think my work has a tendency to be slightly narrative and often figurative without actually being literally figurative. I like when my work is quirky but not absurd, and aesthetically pleasing without being pretty. There’s something pleasant about it without being too safe, and sometimes that’s enough for me.
Q What is your ultimate goal with your work?
A I would like to have one of my images put into some kind of textile form, like wallpaper or sheets. For instance, take one of my huggers and use it for a tablecloth or bedding. If my work could be translated into something designerly, then that would be fine.
Q Do you enjoy other forms of art?
AOh yes, I play the drums a little bit and the guitar. I used to play bass guitar in a band, I write poetry, and I enjoy the performing arts. Process-oriented stuff just doesn’t appeal to me.
Q What materials do you use?
AI use wood, canvas, book covers, lots of found objects; I use paper, plastic, glass, fabric, you name it. I’ll paint on your shoes if you let me; in fact, I’ve done that. I use buttons; I’ve got a mishmash of all kinds of stuff. The frames I get mostly from secondhand stores or they’re hand-me-downs or from thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales and those kinds of things.
Q What is your favorite piece of artwork?
A I’m not sure I have one. I think there are a few I feel close to — my stack of images of when I was in New York — because they are catalysts, and when I painted it, it seemed very correct to me and has been an image that comes up repeatedly. It’s a little bit figurative. I like the way it looks and the possibilities — how many different ways can it be interpreted?
Q Do you have a source of reference while painting?
A If I want to get technically correct with something, I use objects or projections as a reference. I don’t usually do it. To be honest, I do it to challenge myself, and then I feel reassured, stupidly.
Q Have you seen an evolution of change in your art?
AYeah, I don’t think I really had a set voice when I was in college, but when I was about to graduate, I felt it all coming together. I felt comfortable making images that felt right even if I couldn’t explain them. I gave myself permission to do that.