Friday, December 14, 2007

Manning Williams

Before Steve and I flew to Birmingham, England, I promised a post on Manning Williams. Why? Because I want to remember this day, this experience, and the emotions I felt while wandering around one of the most amazing studios spaces I've ever encountered. Above is a shot of the master in his sacred setting, an artist in his environment.

Manning Williams is legendary as a Southern painter. His credentials are exhausting to read. He is old. He is growing more feeble and his mind meanders through time and place; yet, he is steadfast with artistic passion and keen about every detail. To learn more, factual matters, click here.

Truthfully, I'm not a great admirer of Manning's subject matter or even his particular artistic flair. I've framed nearly eighty or so pieces of his work for my very best (and most influential) client; so I am familiar with his art. I just don't care for it that much. I appreciate it. I marvel at the new, comic-book abstractions. Recently, I had to pick up a finished commission for framing. This afforded me the opportunity to visit Manning's studio.

Thankfully, I knew to ask "How big is it". It is six by eight feet. I rented a truck. I took my camera. I watched while a friend and a art dealer helped and poked into boxes and stacks of work. I thought about a lifetime of artistic output. I thought about aging, dependency, and greed. I took pictures of books, toys, art supplies, samples, sketchbooks, source materials, found objects, and a compulsion to surround oneself with fanciful things, inspiration.

Eventually, the painting was loaded and I had to go. The photos are my keepsake. They serve as a reminder of a creative genius and how a studio can incredible space; a huge cavernous space full of ideas and half completed work; a life line between reality and the fantasy of art.

Recently, Libby Mills wrote a post about her studio and questioned the way in which an artist works in the available space...facing the center, facing a wall, etc. I walked through the stacks of bookcases and the mounds of boxes in Mannings' studio and wondered how he would answer this question, "How do you position yourself in your studio". The place is so large that the answer is difficult. Manning faces a two story wall in the middle of an area that can be viewed from nearly every angle. The entire place is an addition to his comfortable home. Frankly, I think Manning Williams life is his art and his art is his completely that there is no focal point, no walls, no sacred space. After decades of self-supportive effort, Manning Williams studio is merely an extension of Manning Williams. Art and life are one...view it any way from any place...all the barriers are blurred.


arlee said...

A very thoughtful, thought provoking entry. We all laugh at the people who sit in restaurants with their backs to a corner, but i wonder how many of us think of the way we situate ourselves in our studios---have to ponder that myself!

Harold said...

Manning was one of my professors at The College of Charleston. I was majoring in biology but I dabbled in the fine arts. As far as art professors go he taught me more about art than anyone else did. I had teachers who constantly wanted to teach me how to unlock my creativity. This I had plenty of. Manning was the only one who taught me discipline, structure and practical techniques. I will always be indebted to him with my art and all other aspects of life where a foundation is necessary.
Harold Porcher

Susquehanna Studio said...

Manning has been a friend since we painted plen air together both in South Carolina and in Pennsylvania beginning in the early 70's. He is original and unique, a real treasure as an artist and as a person. He spent his life studying art history and always surprised me with his grasp of social politics.
I enjoyed your comments, thank you.