2016 Emerging Artist – Ajene Williams
For Ajene Williams, the world is a lab for understanding, contemplation and knowledge. At the age of 23, he has mastered the craft of carving into wax what he sees beyond the surface of his subjects. Williams’ sculptures require time to grasp his deep insights, yet they provide profound clarity and awe-inspiring knowledge of what otherwise is lost.
Williams’ figurative sculptures present all types of creatures, inclusive of snakes, owls, swans, and more. Much of his work is small, but it never lacks detail. In fact, each piece is intricately carved and presents extraordinary precision that offers a rare glimpse of the creatures’ textures, contours, and even personalities. While his craftsmanship alone is something to marvel, it is Williams’ intention with his work that captivates. What he hopes one sees in his work is not the creature, but in fact, what the creature personifies. In “Snake”, for instance, the languid, scaly, even menacing quiet of the creature is more than enough to draw attention. But spending time with “Snake” gives an overwhelming sense of protection and warmth. Williams challenges the viewer to look past preconceived notions and allow space for hidden revelations. And then, as if this challenge isn’t enough, he begs to ask if these creatures aren’t actually the very people looking at them.
Williams began his art training while attending Woodlawn High School, where he was taught and mentored by Jena Momenee. Momenee enrolled him in the Summer Youth Program at Sloss Furnaces, where he was quickly recognized as a gifted artist, winning first place in the program’s exhibition. Thereafter, Williams was invited to work at Sloss Furnaces in 2011 as a paid intern. He currently holds the prestigious title of Artist in Residence at Sloss Furnaces, where he studies the art of casting metal under the tutelage of Director of Metal Arts Marshall Christie and Senior Artist in Residence John Stewart Jackson. His work is currently on display at Alabama Power’s exhibition honoring the Sloss Metal Arts program and artists.
As a child, Ajene wanted to be a magician, “but I was never very good,” he says. It didn’t take long for him to realize that it wasn’t the magician’s equipment that made illusions, but rather the way the magician would use his hands. “Hands are magic,” he explains, “We can create anything with our hands, if we are able to imagine it.” Williams is gifted at manifesting exactly what he sees in perfect proportion, perfect harmony. Yet, he no longer seeks to create illusion with his magic. Now, he seeks only to show the world’s deepest, most often missed truths.
– Essay by Heidi Stoeckly
Find Ajene at the Festival in Booth 115 on the Fountain Walk adjacent to the Info Center Gazebo.
Photo of Ajene and Furnace – Image by Jared Ragland
Ajene working with on sculpture – Image by Alabama Power
ABOUT MAGIC CITY ART CONNECTION’S EMERGING ARTIST AWARD:
Magic City Art Connection’s (#MagicCityArt) Emerging Artist Award is an honor handed out annually to a talented Birmingham artist. The award was established to spotlight, support and present new artists of great artistic potential and integrity to the Festivals sponsors, patrons and public. In addition to being prominently featured at the contemporary art festival, the recipient will receive a $350 cash award, tickets to some of MCAC’s big events like Art Bash and Corks & Chefs, and will be recognized at MCAC’s Friday Night Applause Awards dinner.
Most recent Emerging Artist Honorees:
2015 Jared Ragland – Photography
2014 Sarah Heath – Sculpture & Installation
2013 Christopher Davis – Painting
2012 Daisy Winfrey – Mixed Media
2011 Kristin Skees – Photograhpy
2010 Binx Newton – Mixed Media
2009 Spencer Shoults – Mixed Media
2008 Walt Creel – Mixed Media
2007 John Fields – Painting
2006 Clayton Colvin – Mixed Media
2005 Jane Timberlake – Mixed Media
2004 Merrilee Challiss – Mixed Media
2003 Amy Pleasant Henderson – Painting
2002 Annie Kammerer Butrus – Painting
2001 Joel Seah – Painting, Mixed Media
2000 Allen Peterson – Sculpture
1999 Dan Bynum – Mixed Media
1998 Beth Rogers – Photography
1997 AntJuan Oden – Mixed Media