Continuing through January 6, 2018
Sarah Williams’ nocturnal paintings are populated with small homes, gas stations, neon signs, and other familiar structures that are luminous and haunting. Anyone who has driven through a small town, a quiet neighborhood or along a country road at night will recognize these scenes. The light emanating from them creates glowing beacons that contrast with the darkness. Who hasn’t looked at homes like these and wondered about the lives of the people who inhabit them? Such an implied narrative stirs our imagination and evokes a powerful nostalgia. Williams knows this subject matter well, as she was raised on a farm in a small midwestern town. She paints from photographs that she takes herself. While driving to Houston from Illinois for the opening of her exhibition and back home, she shot scenes for future paintings.
These small oils-on-panel may appear photorealistic initially, but the surfaces are both painterly and seductive, the colors are richly saturated. Williams conveys the melancholy mood of dusk, when the setting sun creates a glow along the horizon, and the sky above gradually shifts from turquoise to dark blue. This low light turns the structures into silhouettes, their architectural details partially obscured. “I use darkness to edit out extraneous information and provide the viewer with the essence of the place,” Williams writes. Her paintings have been described as cinematic, moody and exuding a sense of drama. Seven of the works here depict small homes lit up by Christmas lights, and in another, a large barn with open doors reveals a brightly lit Christmas tree.
These nightscapes are both captivating and mysterious. A one-pump gas station, a tiny post office, a white country church and a neon sign for the Rail Haven Motel are all transformed into atmospheric scenes through Williams’ deft handling of light and shadow. The day winding down, the endless road ahead, solitude and loneliness — all these and more are present in Williams’ work.