The Life and Death of Charles Williams

An exhibition featuring the observant works of Kentucky artist Charles Williams (1942-1998), which I visited this summer at the University of Kentucky Art Museum, proved memorable. The writer, cartoonist, photographer, painter and sculptor attended a western Kentucky job corps and later worked as a janitor at IBM’s Lexington, Kentucky, plant.

Various office supplies he collected found their way into many of his sculptures, such as the creation shown here. According to the museum’s Exhibition Guide, conflicting stories exist regarding the ultimate purpose of Williams’ pencil holders. “Some insist that he made them to sell to desk workers at the factory–using pens, pencils and markers gleaned from their desks–but others maintain that he kept them for himself, refusing to sell them under any circumstance.” Ultimately, you’ll need to judge for yourself, and that’s but a small part of the intrigue Williams’ work inevitably surfaces.

One thing’s certain. This Blue Diamond, Kentucky, native was a prolific artist whose works should be better known, if you ask me.

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