A focus on liberating art in Dot group show
Curtis Williams is Black, independent, and illustrating with a fiercely uninhibited nonconformist mentality.
I was eager to join him at the Dorchester Art Project this month for a community show featuring him and other local African-American artists. Born in 1992, Williams said, “I’ve always been a creator,” and has been excited to focus on work that is liberating for a change.
“I did a show at Converse [headquarters] for their diversity network a few months back,” Williams told DigBoston. “It was cool, but I really feel like it was a springboard into other ideas. Now I don’t do too many murals, and that’s just really about adding more space to adjust yourself.”
Moving around the space, the artist tagged his trademark “Curtistic” signature in the corners of the showcase walls. Williams moved swiftly and evenly, appearing in the places where complexity required him to be.
Creative moments aside, there was a tangible reality in play as well. Altering the straps of his bespeckled overalls, Williams smirked and said, “My uncle’s coming tomorrow.” The product of a law enforcement family in Florida, I wondered how his relatives viewed his professional pursuits, unconventional as they are.
“You know how it is,” said Williams. “My family was never real negative, but they wanted me to keep realistic expectations about my future. It took some convincing, but now they have some sense of what I do, and the main thing for both of us is that I am able to take care of myself as a man. They understand how seriously I take opportunities like this, and do what they can to support it.”
For this opening of Midnight Funk, a “contemporary and street art group show” packing “a collection that fuses dynamic visuals of a dope group of emerging artists,” the venue in Fields Corner attracted a millennial crowd filled with people of color—other than the bartender, Williams’ aunt and uncle were the only other faces I spotted that were noticeably white—with many who were already familiar with each other from some art scene or another. Shades of beauty filled various nooks, interlocking hues connecting and disproving monolithic misconceptions of the African-American experience in Boston.
One of the standout Williams abstractions, beside an entryway, caused some congestion, as clumps of people gathered to discuss its intent. Haiku, a 22-year-old poet, said, “It feels like freedom. I like how unrefined this all is. It gives you the nerve to feel something, but I don’t feel like I’m being spoon-fed a proselytize narrative.”
A couple hours into the show, Williams stood in front of said verbally lauded piece as people walked past, taking photos of the craftsman and the work. Through it all, Williams kept the installation running, at one point walking into a back room, emerging with a ladder, and modifying the surrounding lights.
From on high, the artist looked more like a handyman. He shrugged, sighed, and said, “This is my life,” before descending to check out the lighting himself.
Williams’ talent was on full display all night.
Properly illuminated, it was that much easier to recognize.