Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams


The notion of space is essential for almost every artist, whether they are a painter, sculptor, multimedia artist, collagist, or photographer. However, in architecture, space becomes paramount mainly because the space defined by an architectural design isn’t just expressive or symbolic. In many cases, it represents space where people have to live.

Chicago-based artist Amanda Williams, who earned a degree in architecture and who was recently awarded one of this year’s MacArthur Fellowship awards, uses her knowledge of architecture to create fine-art projects that are provocative and timely, and, in a way, also very logical and timeless, which is something that you don’t always hear about artists who work in a cross-disciplinary manner. Williams’s art straddles many mediums, including painting, site-specific installations, and architecture. In one of her more recent works, the “Embodied Sensations” exhibition, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, she even included elements that allowed the public to participate in the exhibition as performance artists.

Why They Made the Worthy 100: It’s always instructive to hear what an artist has to say about his or her own work. And this is particularly true of Williams when she speaks about her projects. For example, here’s what Williams says about “Embodied Sensations,” in which she uses a well-known public space (at the MoMA) to create a performative work during the recent global pandemic. Doing so not only allowed her to reveal conflict in that particular public space but also to highlight how such problems exist in many public spaces in America, particularly for African American communities: “The assumption that public space is free is not something that everyone assumes, and it became something that nobody could assumed” Williams says in the video that accompanies her “Embodied Sensations” exhibition on MoMA’s website. “So, when your movements are regulated in spaces you think you have control over, that’s where you see the tension.” She continues, “So, I’m not a performance artist, but I think about space all the time, and I think about bodies in space all the time. So, it seemed like a natural extension. And it really felt like [[ the exhibition ]] had to be a performative work….”

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