IN PRAISE OF OUR LEADERS & CULTURAL EDUCATORS
Last fall, I was invited to the University of Delaware as part of a visiting artist lecture series by artist and educator Abby Donovan. The University of Delaware is one of the few MFA programs in the country that provides all students with tuition waivers as well as teaching stipends. I was so impressed by the program and Abby's first and second year students, that I have continued to follow their progress. A special shout out goes to Jason F. Austin who made this powerful homage to artist and educator, Painting Professor at UD, Peter Williams.The sensitivity and care with which Jason deals with his subject is everything, but why stop there. In Jason's eyes, this is a time to take stock of our cherished leaders and cultural educators. Seated in a wheelchair, the artist Peter Williams is depicted in one of the crit rooms at UD. A green shoulder bag comes across his left arm and rests on his lap. His right arm comes up to his face, pointer finger resting on his lips, as if contemplating a work on view.
Behind Williams, the walls are full of markings: MASTER, #BLACKLIVESMATTER, a peace sign; an anti-Trump stamp; an icon in reference to Williams' renown "N-Word" series; the words "BRILLANT, ECCENTRIC, HOPE"; LEEZA, the word of endearment for William's wife, Elishka; 1952, the year Williams was born, and UDEL the location where all of this is memorialized. I would be remiss to mention a beautiful shadow that appears on the left side of the image, which can be the artist, Jason Austin, making an appearance as well as a reference to the scores of African-American men and women who have been murdered at the hands of police.In this glowing light, Williams transforms into the ultimate vessel of history and knowledge, overflowing with hope, power, and the will to resist. It reminds me that no one can do it alone; that the celebrated vessel is here shared between Peter and Jason, and we are all present for the exchange. All the admiration and gratitude in this work is the same that I feel for the crucial figures in my life. It tells me that Jason is aware of his own vessel and that there is an insatiable desire to fill it to the rim. That love comes from somewhere—here, he gives more than a little back.
You can find Jason Austin’s work on Instagram @jfastudios and learn more about the MFA Program at the University of Delaware, here. The work of Peter Williams can be found on his website: www.peterwilliams.studio