Monday, March 31, 2014

Redemption Stories Series with Guest Artist Kelly Williams

Redemption Stories Monday: For the next ten Monday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a story of redemption from their own life or work. These stories may be a broad overview or observation, or they may be very specific, deep and personal. The post may be very short or very lengthy. I have left the specifics up to each of the ten. View images of their work as you read their words, and bios. Be sure to check out the links each one will provide to learn even more about them. 

Kelly Williams is such an inspiration to me.Not only can I identify with the emotions of much of her healing journey, but with the desire she has to pay that healing forward through the arts.I had the privilege of talking with Kelly several years back and being able to view some of the "Recovery Panes" created by her students. Her Crossroads project has helped countless homeless youth process & grieve their experiences, affirm their worth and empower them toward a healthy future. Her life and her work as an artist is truly a redemptive story and I'm honored to introduce her to you.
"Below The Fault Line" by Kelly Williams
I am a survivor. That can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Many, if not most of us are survivors of one form or another. The details of my own journey no longer seem terribly important to me as they did at one time. It is the journey that matters to me now.

My childhood was one that required survival. I did. I thought. But it didn’t end when I entered “adulthood.” It wasn’t over by a long shot.

I was lost in a personal hell that kept the memories more real than the people and activities happening right in front of me. I often didn’t know my own children when they spoke to me. When I looked down at my hands, they belonged to another body. I was confused when I saw the reflection of someone else in the mirror. I would hear myself speaking across the room and not know that it was my voice. Standing in my home, I would not know where I was or when it was. I was haunted by my past, overwhelmed by the shame and constant pain. I was exhausted and just wanted it to end.
"Redslash" by Kelly Williams

It didn’t. For a long time.

Until I found a voice: A voice that captured my past and my present in a way that resonated my truth.

I found my voice in art. I had never painted a day in my life until someone handed me a paintbrush. Suddenly, the paintings poured out of me. The ability to articulate without words the paradoxes and layers of my experience, both past and present, was foundational to my journey out of the darkness.

I kept painting and painting and painting. What began as nightmarish images that overwhelmed me transformed into a language that finally allowed me to express the deep and complicated layers of my shattered mind and stolen sanity. I discovered I had developed a powerful visual expression that finally allowed me to tell my truth without words. It was the lifeline I clung to and painstakingly climbed until each breath I took was no longer only a reminder of the pain to be endured. Painting was hope.

I found to my surprise my artwork resonated with others. People could see meaning in my images, saw their own reflection in these wordless spaces. Those that once believed their voice would forever remain silent now saw in this process a way to honor and heal their past and move forward.
"Notes On Peace and Acceptance" by Kelly Williams
My professional and educational background in psychology and development converged and I found new ways of expressing my experience on a broader scale, to help others through social artistry. I started providing opportunities for individuals to do similar work in a safe and supportive environment. That grew into creating community projects that targeted disenfranchised individuals that needed an opportunity to voice their experience, as a way to help them move forward in their own lives.

Artist Kelly Williams
My current project, Crossroads, opens on April 3 and will show over 150 pieces of art created by homeless and transitional youth. Through the use of encaustic painting methods of layered wax and fire, they have embedded their personal tragedies and hopes within the layers of the wax. They were able to burn away or bury the words they have never said aloud for a symbolic release and honoring of their story. Many of these kids have never felt safe enough to express the foundational experiences that have put them on the road they now travel. Respectfully acknowledging their journeys is the first step in their making choices to change their lives, their stories, for the better.
As I discovered, there is great power in knowing that someone has gone before you in difficult circumstances and has emerged transformed at the other end.  There is profound healing that comes in speaking your truth and knowing you are understood, accepted and encouraged to move forward.  There is deep affirmation in believing you are worthy of the time, effort and resources of another human being interested in your personal journey.  The foundation of healing is about relationship and communication, a willingness to hold space for another exactly where they are and with deep respect, stand with them until they can stand on their own. This is what I now do. 
Artist Kelly Williams

My work is a symbolic narrative process. It is a progression of disentanglement, a developing of a story, layer by layer. It is only upon coming closer and becoming intimate does one experience the intricate textures, subtle imagery, hidden text and imperfections that make up the whole. Secrets are hidden within the layers, embedded truths expressed and hidden again for a visceral journey through the soul.  The written word is often used as a form of layered texture to engage my deeper self and invite the viewer to do the same.
The use of encaustic painting allows for the metaphorical layering, burning, burying and exposing that are all relevant to the deeper meaning of my work.  This ancient medium being used in contemporary visual expression further supports the timeless messages and questions I am driven to explore
My work has appeared in multiple galleries, businesses and publications both locally and nationally.  I have a busy studio practice in Portland Oregon, teaching in my West Burnside Studio.  I help those who wish to explore their inner landscape or work through specific issues, using encaustic painting as a cathartic medium in both private and small group sessions.  I have developed several healing arts projects that bring this art form and method to disenfranchised populations and speak to audiences about how to use art as a powerful social advocacy tool in our communities.
Crossroads Opening on April 3rd:

Facebook event to Crossroads Project

Review on UNSPEAKABLE at White Space Gallery


  1. A moving and inspiring story...along with incredible art. Thanks so much for introducing me to Kelly.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Seth and I'm so glad to be able to introduce you to Kelly!