Forrest Williams

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Artist Statement

Painting is a personal vision that comes from some inner core of yourself. You can’t always explain it because sometimes even you yourself (the painter) don’t understand its meaning. The painting is like a piece of something that you spend a lifetime trying to figure out.

I can try to say some things about my work. My paintings are about men: about being a man as I see it and about relationships between men. They depict individual men, but they’re not portraits. The men inhabit a particular place, but it isn’t real. It’s an ambiguous, interior territory, where things are and are not what they seem.

The paintings are staged scenarios, theatrical moments, and the men who inhabit them are the actors. The reality lies in the emotional core of this world — intensely felt but highly contained. My model Lorenzo called it “emotional purgatory.”

In the past the figures existed in very hermetic, patterned, and abstracted spaces, pushed up close to the edge of the picture plane; but in the last several years—after much time spent in upstate New York and then in Provincetown, MA—I’ve become interested in giving the paintings more air and atmosphere, in opening up these men’s surroundings rather than confining them. From the woods they’ve now moved to a world of flat, open plains close to the sea (much of this work remains in progress). Whatever the case, the drama exists in the worlds around them, while they often remain self-contained.

Although they’re a group of anonymous men, they’re at the same time self-portraits I suppose. Perhaps these are worlds of their own making — worlds with outsides and edges and unknown terrains beyond. This is the region where desire and doubt, longing and reticence, intimacy and uncertainty coexist. It speaks of absence as much as presence.



1994 New York Academy of Art New York, NYMFA, Painting

1986 Davidson CollegeDavidson, NCBA, English

1985 Edinburgh UniversityEdinburgh, Scotland Honors, English and Art History

Born in North Carolina Lives/Works in New York


2014 “Arrival” AMP Provincetown, MA

2010 “Crossways” Marx & Zavattero San Francisco, CA

2007 “Porches” Heather Marx Gallery San Francisco, CA

2005 “Passage” Heather Marx GallerySan Francisco, CA

2002 “Interiors” Heather Marx Gallery San Francisco, CA

2000 “Pilgrims” Elizabeth Leach Gallery Portland, OR

1999 “Vigil” Elizabeth Leach Gallery Portland, OR


2013-14 “Hello, Goodbye” Dolby Chadwick Gallery San Francisco, CA

2012 “Two Loves – Sex, Art, and theLove That Dare Not Speak Its Name” Kymara Gallery Biddeford, ME

2012 “SEEN” Visual Aid Gallery San Francisco, CA

2012 “New York Academy of ArtSixth Annual Summer Exhibition” Flowers New York, NY

2011 “Sea Change” Marx & Zavatter San Francisco, CA

2011 “The Elegance of Refusal” Gensler San Francisco, CA

2009 “Seldom Seen” Leslie/Lohman Foundation New York, NY

2009 “Figuratively Speaking” Lyons Wier Gallery New York, NY

2009 “Then and Now: Site Specific Works in Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots” The LGBT Community Center New York, NY

2008 “Color Key” The Painting Center New York, NY

2005 “Point of View” Cypress College Fine Arts Gallery Cypress, CA

2005 “Human Figure / Figure Humaine” Galerie de Bellefeuille Montréal, QC

2004 “Art 2004” Galerie de Bellefeuille Montréal, QC

2003 “Re-presenting Representation” Arnot Art Museum Elmira, NY

2002 “Human Figure / Figure Humaine” Galerie de Bellefeuille Montréal, QC

2002 “Identity: The Process of Search and Transformation” Lewis and Clark College Portland, OR

2002 “Nouvelle Représentation” Galerie de Bellefeuille Montréal, QC

2001 “The Inaugural Exhibition” Heather Marx Gallery San Francisco, CA

2000 “Delicate Tissue” M.Y. Art Projects New York, NY

1998 “Dialogues with Visual Tradition” New York Academy New York, NY(curated by Philip Pearlstein)

1998 “The 1998 National Competition” First Street Gallery New York, NY(curated by Edward Thorp)

1997 “Know New York” Elizabeth Leach Gallery Portland, OR

1996 “Gallery on Second Group Show” Gallery on Second New York, NY(curated by Barbara Krulik)

1995 “The Kitchen Benefit Show” Brooke Alexander Gallery New York, NY

1994 “Figurative Artists at The W.T.C.” 4 World Trade Center New York, NY


2012 Keyes, Bob “Exhibition Explores LGBT Art” Portland Press Herald August 5

2010 O’Hern, John “Forrest Williams: Oblique Relationships” American Art Collector November, pp. 152-153

2010 Eisenhart, Mary “Don’t Miss: ‘Forrest Williams: Crossways’” San Francisco Chronicle (96 Hours) November 25, p. 17

2010 Wood, Sura “What’s Up at the Galleries This Fall?” Bay Area Reporter September 2

2009 O’Hern, John “Formative Moments” American Art Collector MagazineNovember, pp. 50-51

2008 Foss, Paul “On the Back Porch: An Interview with Forrest Williams,” artUS Magazine, No. 22 Spring 2008, pp. 50-53

2007 Young, Paul “A Brutal Kind of Beautiful,” Los Angeles Times February 1, pp. F10-11

2005 Bing, Alison “Forrest Williams: Thisclose” (“Porches” catalog essay)

2005 “(Green) Alley” (reproduction), Bay Area Reporter (“Out & About” section), March 31, p. 37

2004 Harper’s Magazine (reproduction) January, p. 24

2002 Sellards, Jason “Still Life With Boyfriend: Painter Forrest Williams’ Human Tableaux,” Genre, May, No. 104, pp. 30-31

2002 Bing, Alison “Psychological Profiles,” Art ePick, April 11-17

2002 “Nexus” (reproduction) Bay Area Reporter (“Out & About” section), March 28, p. 36

2002 Berry, Colin “The Inaugural Exhibition at Heather Marx Gallery,” Artweek February, Vol 33, Issue 1, p. 25

2000 Kilby, Damian “Classically Rendered Figures Dressed for the ‘Hood,” Portland,December

2000 Ellertson, Karrin “Four Artists,” Portland Mercury November

1999 Long, Andrew “New Dimensions,” Art & Antiques, February