Myrtle Williams

Myrtle Williams | Independent 20th Century
Independent 20th Century

You see those lips – they have a voice. I always want my figures to have a voice because otherwise you’re gone —Myrtle Williams

Installation Views


“Most fascinating is that Williams negotiated a relationship to ceramics on her own terms. Defying expectations she honed her facility with the materials and the form through alternative means; in the crevices of her life as a mother and homemaker. In the process of this workaround she locates subject matter that is saliently, courageously, out of sync, but most crucially, pertinent to her commitment to evidencing black women.” – Romi Crawford

Over the course of 35 years, Myrtle Williams (b. 1938) made over 300 female figures at the ceramics studio of Montgomery County Community College. Each layered with the textures, signs, and symbols of her travels and imbued with her lifelong desire to give visibility to Black women, her deeply personal and powerful troupe of figures glazed in black, green, and brown stoneware are her heroines of African American culture and liberation—past, present, and future. Exhibited for the first time in New York at Independent 20th Century, Salon 94 presents Williams’ series of singers and icons which includes portraits of Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Billie Holiday as well as the everywoman, faces and busts drawn from imagination and memory. These elegant ceramic portraits are an embodiment of Williams’ belief that “Women rule the world”–and as such, should occupy it as powerful independent subjects, proclaiming their visibility and importance.

Williams and her husband, Dr. John T. Williams Sr. have long championed the work of Black artists and examples of Black figuration as they amassed an extensive collection of works by African American artists such as Barkley Hendricks, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, and Charles White alongside African masks, figures and rare Black dolls gathered in travels across all 50 of the United States, nearly every continent, and several countries in Africa. “I fell in love with figures—women and Black women— because I wanted to see someone that looked like me.” With an upcoming solo exhibition at Salon 94’s flagship exhibition space at 3 East 89th Street this October, William’s lifetime achievements will be recognized anew within the context of Black history and figuration.

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For additional information on the work of Myrtle Williams, please contact Zoe Fisher at [email protected]

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