See it before it's gone: Fletcher Williams' Sacred Ground at Cannon Street Arts Center

Beauty is pain

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"Private Property" - PROVIDED
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  • "Private Property"
City Paper writer Chase Quinn reflects on Fletcher Williams III's current exhibition, Sacred Ground, on display at the Cannon Street Arts Center through this Saturday. If you can't make it to Sacred Ground, be sure to stop by the Gibbes this May 13-June 14 where Williams is a visiting artist.

Currently on view at the Cannon Street Arts Center, Fletcher Williams III brings together a collection of sculptural works in Sacred Ground that continues to complicate the American Dream in favor of something ultimately more authentic and satisfying.

In his piece, "Gift for a Gardener," Williams weaves hundreds of Palmetto roses, a symbol of black entrepreneurship and basket weaving, into a rectangular thatch. In an Instagram video he is seen lifting the thatch to reveal the intricate weave-work on the bottom side. In the context of the show, it becomes the perfect metaphor for survival, a process that can be painstaking and beautiful. But perhaps what stands out most in this show, is the hint at violence as a predicate of survival.



In "Out to Dry," (2016), the viewer is confronted with a stocky clothesline hung with large, limb-like wood frames. They are strung like bodies in the wind and call to mind the “withered flanks” of ancestors described in Maya Angelou’s “The Mask." If jostled they swing, criss-crossing on the line like shuddering jaws, industrial capitalism's hungry maw to eat you alive.

In "Homestead," (2018), the gesture at the visceral gets even stronger. The representation of an actual multi-use barn located near Walterboro, SC sits atop a pedestal of picket fence planks, decorated at the bottom with grisly rebar hooks. Williams describes the hooks in the show as “identical to those used by black farmers in butchering livestock.” Williams states that a part of his practice is documenting African-American entrepreneurship and ingenuity. Surely, a part of that exploration is dealing with the literal blood, sweat, and tears on which that American experience is built.

Questions abound in Sacred Ground, like, is a fence, as depicted in “Private Property,” there to keep something in or to block something out? Staring at its white-washed and weather-beaten exterior, you can’t help feeling like the viewer is the one actually being protected, from whatever costly and dangerous thing lies within.

You can decipher Williams’ distinct and evolving language for yourself until May 4. Get there before it is gone. 

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