Safe Passage in Conversation with Her Flowers: Disruption of Old Narratives: Heather Williams

January 21, 2025 - June 20, 2025
Karl and Helen Burger Gallery

About the Exhibition

Hauntingly beauty resonates out of systemic oppression in a new mixed-media series by award-winning multidisciplinary artist, Heather Williams.

Rooted in her Caribbean and African heritage, spirituality and identity, Williams’ work explores the concept of damage and repair. Known for her abstract paintings, figurative sculpture, and film, Williams’ artistic voice is clear, purposeful, and unwavering. An introspective person with a thoughtful narrative to share with the world, she does not shy away from difficult subject matter.

Williams explores topics of fear, guilt, beauty and connection in her solo exhibition, Safe Passage in Conversation with Her Flowers. She asks, “Is there safe passage in this world for the Black body? How do I protect my son? How do I live with the guilt of growing up in a family that denied my mother’s mental health issues?” “ How do I change the narrative of a mother who struggled with mental health?’

Through the lens of legacy, Williams mindfully blends these complex topics and invites viewers to her table for a discussion. She opens the conversation focused on her son, and explores feelings of fear as he traverses the world, while she contemplates how best to protect him. Williams then expands the exchange to reveal the weight of loss while simultaneously revering a beautiful life force. Could I have done more to help her? Williams uses her artistry to deconstruct an old narrative of her mother and thereby raising the level of humanity for unsung mothers-especially those struggling with mental illness.

Safe Passage in Conversation with Her Flowers through video imagery, music, and sculptures resembling her mother’s shoes, manifests into a connective moment with the viewer, as Williams unravels fabric one thread at a time. Symbolic, simple, and powerful.

Williams offers viewers grace in the moment and creates space for reflection, recognition of human failure, all while quietly embracing those around her sharing her strength and resilience.

Selected Works

Artist Statement

A love letter to the quiet and intrinsically powerful Black woman is the way that I describe my art practice. Often late at night, when my part of the world is silent, I am always crafting this love letter. But this letter is not in writing. It is in my paint brush, the clay, my camera, the process happening with music in the backdrop. As a multidisciplinary artist, I use abstract paintings, sculpture and film to explore complexities and dualities that exist within our world. My works are multilayered, textured and filled with movement, creating a visual representation of the various layers of meaning that exist within our experiences.

Rooted in my Caribbean and African heritage, spirituality and identity, my paintings explore the concept of damage and repair. This exploration began on a personal level, but has since evolved into an examination of the fragmented histories that make up the legacy of The Middle Passage. Through my paintings, I strive to bring attention to the enduring impact of this history on the present. I draw influences from artists such as Caravaggio and his dramatic use of light, Amy Sherald's use of saturated color, Mark Bradford’s torn surfaces and Norman Lewis' texture and compositions.
My Witness sculptures serve as observers of time, and are my connection to the long and proud African ancestral lineage that has been hidden. These sculptures bear witness to the struggles and triumphs of the past, and serve as a powerful symbol of resilience and strength.

My ongoing film project, "Safe Passage," features my son over time and offers a first-person view on my contemplation of how to protect him. It asks the question: Is there a safe passage for the Black body? This project was initiated during the height of the pandemic shutdown and Black Lives Matter Movement protests in 2020. As we look back over three years later, where are we?

Through my art, I seek to bring attention to the experiences of those who have been marginalized and oppressed throughout history. I strive to create a space for reflection and contemplation, where viewers can engage with complex themes and ideas. Ultimately, I believe that art has the power to heal, to inspire, and to create meaningful change in our world.