Philemona Williamson

Philemona Williamson is a narrative painter who has shown widely in the United States and abroad. Her work explores the tenuous bridge between adolescence and adulthood, encapsulating the intersection of innocence and experience at its most piercing and poignant moment.

The lush color palette and dreamlike positioning of the figures ensures that their vulnerability – of age, of race, of sexual identity – is seen as strength and not as weakness. “My figures navigate a world of uncertainty as they search for understanding—both internally and in ever-shifting environments. I see the figures as vehicles to explore the existence of the most vulnerable adolescents, those evolving people of color, grappling with what will define and identify them. My paintings give voice and space to invisibility.”

Williamson has exhibited her work for over 25 years at the June Kelly Gallery in NYC and recently, at her mid-career retrospective at the Montclair Art Museum in NJ. She is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Pollock Krasner, National Endowment For The Arts, New York Foundation For The Arts and Millay Colony as well as serving on the advisory board of the Getty Center for Education. Her work has been shown in many solo and group exhibitions such as The Queens Museum of Art, Wisconsin’s Kohler Art Center, The Sheldon Museum in Nebraska, The Bass Museum in Miami, The Mint Museum in North Carolina, The Forum of Contemporary Art in St. Louis, The International Bienal of Painting in Cuenca, Ecuador and most recently at the Anna Zorina Gallery in NYC.

She is represented in numerous private and public collections, including The Montclair Art Museum; The Kalamazoo Art Institute; The Mint Museum of Art; Smith College Museum of Art; Hampton University Museum; Sheldon Art Museum; Mott-Warsh Art Collection, and AT&T. Her public works includes fusedglass murals created for the MTA Arts in Transit Program at the Livonia Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn, a poster for the MTA Poetry In Motion and — for the NYC School Authority — a mosaic mural in the Glenwood Campus School. She currently teaches painting at Pratt Institute and Hunter College in NYC.

For Philemona’s latest project, she created a series of paintings for the children’s book Lubaya’s Quiet Roar, just out from Penguin Random House.

“The Gathering” 48″ x 60 ” oil on canvas 2019
“Here I Hold Becoming” 48” x 60” oil on canvas 2020
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  1. […] Philemona Williamson spoke to us from Montclair, New Jersey where she lives. Her studio is a few towns away in a repurposed factory in East Orange, New Jersey. Williamson has an upcoming show at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco. Years ago, Karen Jenkins-Johnson, gallery owner, purchased one of Williamson’s paintings. She recently reached out asking to exhibit the artist’s work. There will be eight or nine recent works in the show. While Williamson typically can take up to a year to complete a work, in 2020 she has had more time, as many of us have, and has found this a prolific period for her work. The subject of her work is told through the vehicle of adolescent figures who play out larger narratives about the world. To hear more from Williamson, including how the silence and isolation of the pandemic have influenced her work, listen to the complete interview. […]

  2. […] Philemona Williamson spoke to us from Montclair, New Jersey where she lives. Her studio is a few towns away in a repurposed factory in East Orange, New Jersey. Williamson has an upcoming show at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco. Years ago, Karen Jenkins-Johnson, gallery owner, purchased one of Williamson’s paintings. She recently reached out asking to exhibit the artist’s work. There will be eight or nine recent works in the show. While Williamson typically can take up to a year to complete a work, in 2020 she has had more time, as many of us have, and has found this a prolific period for her work. The subject of her work is told through the vehicle of adolescent figures who play out larger narratives about the world. To hear more from Williamson, including how the silence and isolation of the pandemic have influenced her work, listen to the complete interview. […]