David Driskell (1931-2020) and Tree Williams Circa 2003. Photo courtesy of the Driskell Estate.
Tree Williams is an artist/educator. She was born in Danville, Virginia in August of 1964. While putting her goals as a freelance artist on hold, Tree taught art to children from marginalized communities throughout the United States for decades. In 2022 Tree resigned from her position as a middle school art teacher in Charlottesville, Virginia to pursue art practice full-time. The pandemic, combined with numerous personal and professional challenges led her to the decision to embark upon her passion as a creator of paintings, drawings, and sculpture.
In 1987 Tree graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio art, studying under the tutelage of Dr. David C. Driskell.
Shortly thereafter, she attended the University of California, Berkeley from 1989 to 1991, graduating with an MFA in painting with honors. Tree was the recipient of the Harry Lord Ford Prize, the University Art Museum/Margaret Calder Hayes/Tevis Prize, and the Bertha Henicke Taussig Prize during her first year of matriculation. Post graduation Tree received the Katherine Porter Fellowship to attend Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. For two years, she was a visiting lecturer at UC Berkeley teaching painting and drawing from 1999 to 2001. In 2013 Tree graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University, earning a Master of Art in Art Education. She also acquired a Master's in Art Therapy from New York University in 2016. Both programs helped her better understand how to use art-making techniques in the classroom to help students with socio-emotional learning challenges. Recently, Tree received the Virginia Commission for the Arts Works on Paper fellowship for 2022-23, and she will be traveling to Peterborough, New Hampshire to attend the MacDowell Artist in Residency this fall. She currently resides in Faber, Virginia.
For years the natural environment has been the nucleus of my art practice. The beauty of nature, her diversity of color and texture lends itself to the creative process, unlike any other form of inspiration. Often working on site; in parks or by beaches I would become immersed in gestural lines highlighted by expressive hues of color capturing nuanced improvisations of foliage, trees, water, and weather on paper and canvas. It taught me how to interpret and transform what is seen and felt into art that taps into the subconscious, balancing tangible and intangible worlds yielding the essence of sensory enlightenment.
Each project I pursue is three-fold, beginning with a creative idea. A desire to tell visual stories illustrated through painting, sculpture, drawing, and digital media is extracted from the original idea. And lastly, how the elements of art are parlayed into that methodology is paramount. I am the maker of multiple collections of work that may not necessarily have a similar aesthetic or meaning. The questions I ask may start with why, which is content-centered, but what and how encompasses the thought behind my approach.
Although I don’t consider myself an unwavering formalist, I do, however, have a clear understanding of the universal language in art: line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space. As I have matured certain aspects of my art and practice has grown like so; namely due to decades of teaching art in public schools and art programs. Teaching has informed my work as well as helped define the narratives of certain series. Both classroom and studio experiences co-exist in ways that encourage a reciprocation of ideas and a negotiation of time. Within that framework, I have been able to expand upon my repertoire and liberate the intentions behind the work I create. In other words, my art is firmly grounded in the formal elements of art and how to use them in whatever fashion necessary for meaning-making purposes. That said, a centralized definition of what my art is about does not exist.
The imagery, titles, sizes, mediums, and year of completion are like route stops on a map guiding the viewer down a journey of self-discovery. Art is a reflection of life and since we all experience life on a continuum, art lovers, in my opinion, should be given grace, and permission to interweave their personal narratives, impressions and interpretations of my work organically; with or without peripheral knowledge from external voices, including my own.