Philemona Williamson Biography
Philemona Williamson’s vibrant canvases are populated by figures navigating the passage from childhood to adulthood and flouting the borders of race and gender in an uncannily familiar dreamworld. Personal, allegorical, and formal complexities are densely layered with brushwork that ranges dynamically from meticulous to unbounded.
Philemona Williamson was born in 1951 in New York City, where her parents were employed as live-in household staff in a legendary Art Deco apartment building home to the rich and famous. She earned a BA at Bennington College in 1973 and an MA at New York University in 1979. Her institutional solo shows have included Philemona Williamson: Recent Paintings at The Queens Museum of Art (1988), Philemona Williamson Paintings at the African American Museum in Hempstead, New York (1991), and Ashé in the Art of Philemona Williamson at the Robert and Sallie Brown Gallery and Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (2017). Her work has also been represented in numerous important group exhibitions alongside such contemporaries as Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, and Kehinde Wiley. She has been a visiting faculty member in several prestigious art schools such as the Rhode Island School of Design, the Parsons School of Design, and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.
Williamson’s work is represented in various public collections including the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. Among her public commissions are monumental stained glass works at the Glen Oaks Campus School in Queens and the Livonia Avenue subway station in Brooklyn. She currently lives in Upper Montclair, New Jersey and maintains a studio in nearby East Orange. She is represented by Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Brooklyn and San Francisco.