Artist in motion
Visual artist Libby Williams incorporates color and landscape into her evolving style.
Libby Williams was chosen as one of three Oklahoma artists for Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s 2012 Momentum Tulsa Art Show. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree at The University of Tulsa.
Artists of all kinds are always waiting for the next big door to open. For many, it is a long road to success, and sometimes that success brings them right back to where they started.
Tulsa visual artist Libby Williams, who obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The University of Tulsa in 2008, is no exception. She says she always knew she would be an artist, and some time on the East Coast had a profound impact on her work.
Williams lived first in Philadelphia, where she helped in the student-run gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She later completed an internship at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum that allowed her to visit a Queens elementary school to help teach art lessons related to the museum’s collections.
After returning to Tulsa, she was chosen as one of three Spotlight Artists in the state for Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s recent 2012 Momentum Tulsa Art Show.
She is now back at TU pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree.
At what age did you decide to be an artist? And how have you pursued your career?
I think I decided that I wanted to pursue art as my career in high school. I don’t think I ever had to choose a college major because I always knew it was going to be art.
(After I earned my bachelor’s degree I) completed a post-baccalaureate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) … My teachers at PAFA helped me think about color and abstraction in ways that are still relevant to my work today. This summer I participated in a seven-week artist residency in Chautauqua, N.Y. There I took a landscape class with Stanley Lewis, who helped me regain an interest in painting from observation and helped me find abstraction in daily landscape situations.
The teacher who has had the most constant influence on my work is TU painting professor Mark Lewis … He has seen my work through just about every stage of its evolution. He has always been very helpful in exposing me to the work of other artists and giving advice that helps me work through a painting.
After living on the East Coast for a little while, my husband, Gregg, and I returned to Tulsa for his work. I decided TU would be a good place to complete my MFA degree because I like working with Lewis, and TU has good teaching assistant opportunities for its grad students.
What well-known artists have most inspired your work? How long did it take to develop your style?
The artists whose work has influenced me the most are those who use color as a key component … Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Williem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell have had a lot to say to me over the past several years. Most recently, I have been looking at artists whose work is influenced by observation of the landscape, such as Gustave Courbet, Fairfield Porter and Frank Auerbach.
I still feel like I am exploring my own style and imagine that my work will continue to evolve dramatically in the future. However, for the past three years I have become very committed to using color as the primary subject matter of my work. I don’t foresee this changing anytime soon.
What advice would you give young future artists?
I think that constantly setting up challenges for yourself and not being afraid to try a new approach … are crucial to the evolution of your artwork. You really just have to make a lot of work and not get discouraged if you go through periods of making work that you aren’t happy with. Constantly painting is kind of like practicing a musical instrument, in that if you keep doing it, you will only get better.