Fletcher Williams III is at home in his studio, surrounded by a mixture of found items, paints, metals, organic and iconic Lowcountry materials. His mind is always working, looking, assessing, imagining what a piece can be, should be and how these disparate parts come together to tell a story.
“I saw a car outside a storefront recently,” he says looking at two pieces in the process of creation. “I thought at first these would be joined somehow, but now I realize they are separate pieces.” He runs his palm along the edge of the representation of the car, at this point a magenta and lime green with metal flake glittering in the clear coat. On the floor behind him stands the storefront representation, lighted with aqua lights and waiting for the artist’s eye to make it whole.
“These colors will probably change,” he says. It’s easy to see he’s not satisfied with where the piece is so far.
Williams came to art early, in elementary school.
“I was the Lego kid and the one drawing the Tasmanian devil.”
He credits his teacher, Carolyn Hennessy, at Goodwin Elementary with helping him apply to the Charleston County School of the Arts where he auditioned in the sixth grade and was accepted in the seventh grade.
His home was near Goodwin Elementary making it possible to walk to the school for the summer art program as well.
He recalls the first piece that got attention, an 8-by-11-inch self-portrait watercolor in blue.
“It won first place at the Charleston County Fair. I remember taking it to the high school and the students there being impressed.”
During these middle school years he was introduced to a variety of media.
“I was dabbling here and there, but everything was very school project oriented.”
He continued school at Trident Tech, moved to New York City where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2010 from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
His work has evolved from the literal oil paintings, to the thoughtful blend of local organic and found urban materials he uses today to explore the synergy between urban and natural landscapes and issues.
Stacks of wood slats from fences and demolitions lean in the corner of his North Charleston studio. Small barrels contain nature’s materials like spines stripped from palm fronds. In a storage space in the ceiling are dozens of palmetto roses — made during rare downtime — to be used in future works.
“If there’s a stack of fence on the side of the road I’ll go get it before the trash pickup. There are a lot of houses being renovated around here — it’s perfect because I need the materials. The materials have a story of their own,” he says, a smile taking over his face as he picks up a weathered board.
Williams has shown in exhibitions in Charleston including a solo exhibit “Beyond the Rainbow” on Cannon Street. He’s traveled the state showing his work in Columbia at the McKissick Museum and the Mann-Simmons Site, and in Rock Hill at Winthrop University. This past fall he created the poster for the MOJA Arts Festival.
His work is also getting national attention with shows in Brooklyn’s MoCada Museum that opened in August and he was among the artists exhibiting at “With Liberty and (In)Justice For All” at 2 Gateway Center in Newark, New Jersey.
His show for the North Charleston Arts Festival, "City Block," will feature 15-20 new pieces inspired by the city.
“Fletcher is showing at a new and exciting place, the Reynolds Avenue Fire Station. No one has been in that building for more than a year and a half,” says Ann Simmons, deputy director of the North Charleston Cultural Arts Department. “He is one of four solo exhibitions.” The others include Judy McSween (festival design winner), Summerville artist Caroline Self (North Charleston artist-in-residence) and Philadelphia artist Jasmine Allegger.
City Block marks Williams’ first solo show in his home territory of North Charleston.
Williams first came to Simmons’ attention last year when he served as a consultant for a feasibility study on shared artists space.
“Fletcher was a representative from the artist community when we became aware that he was here in North Charleston. At that time, we talked about how great it would be to feature him in the festival,” Simmons says.
Williams’ show opened with a reception April 28 at the Reynolds Avenue Fire Station, 2006 Reynolds Ave., and will continue into the opening week of Spoleto, closing on June 3. Exhibit hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday; closed Sunday and Monday.