Michelle Williams | Retrospective: A Journey Through Time 

Thursday, Aug 31 – Sep 22, 2023

1463 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642

Michelle Williams: RETROSPECTIVE: A Journey Through Time  

Opening Reception Fri.  Sept 8, 5-8pm

This show spans over 30 years of my beaded sculptures.  Before bead art, I worked with tapestry, weaving, baskets, embroidery and crochet.   In 1989, on a trip to Jamaica, I began exploring bead art using basic couching techniques and the human form. The first in that series, I called “First in Series.”  My sculptures have won prizes and been featured in several Bead Art books.  

In the mid-90s, I explored various beading techniques such as peyote & square stitch.  In 1992, in “Doll with Swirl Skirt,” I began incorporating quartz or rose quartz crystals into the interior of the sculptures, almost like a heart or chakra. The crystals amplify an energetic field for the viewers and allow feelings to surface beyond the visual.  I have also repurposed textiles such as antique lace or silk from Thailand and other fabrics with personal or family significance, using them as the base from which to bead.  This adds a layer of ancestral energy to my work.  I also tackle themes unique to the female experience such as 1996’s “Sabotage of the Working Woman.” 

I have long been passionate about conservation and environmentalism, becoming a vegetarian in my early 20s.  I like the idea of turning garbage or discarded materials into something different and of beauty.  Since the late 1990s, I’ve collected bottle tops and thickly encrust plastic beads onto them.  This has been the foundation for my larger scale work mirroring my concern for recycling, reuse, and repurposing what most consider garbage.  This larger work is whimsical and sometimes influenced by other cultures.  

World travel being an ongoing source of inspiration, in my early work, travel to Costa Rica, Jamaica and Florida were strong influences.  In 1994, I created “Sloth Girl” after two long trips to Costa Rica.  Living in Jamaica in the 1970s and many trips in the following decades, led me to create “Crack Eyes” in 1995 to bring more awareness to the harrowing crack epidemic brought to the island by white tourism.  Walking the Atlantic coast beach in FL as I cared for my mother in the last years of her life, led me to create “She Shell” in 2021.  

Most recently, travel to carnaval in Argentina and time spent in India have influenced my evolving style and inspired me to incorporate new materials such as feathers and shells.  A recent visit to the Guo Pei Exhibit at the Bowers Museum in California led me to experiment with embellishing the sculptures using beads and feathers in ways I never have before.  Texture, patterns, and color are major components of all my work.

The sculptures evolve naturally from my feelings and thoughts as I bead, in the moment.  I let the journey lead me.  There is a spirit of play and whimsy in the colors I choose and the postures of the figures.  

Opening Reception, Friday, Sept 8, 5:00-8:00pm

  • Exhibition dates: August 31 – September 23, 2023
  • Gallery hours: Thurs – Fri 2-6pm, Sat – Sun 12-4 pm


This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.