I learned about Larry Williams in an edition of Raw Vision magazine when author Laura Thompkins let us into Williams’s private world. Her interest in his work was, I suspect, the first time anyone had recognized his paintings as “art” or acknowledged that they were remarkable. Williams lives in a small town in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. He has chosen to live a reclusive sort of existence “outside the world” as he calls it. His stated purpose is to live as simply as possible, and that he does. He has only two of items that he would need if someone came to visit – two plates, two cups, two knives, two forks, two spoons. Other than an old TV that plays a few channels, he has no other electronic gadgets. No watch, no clock, no radio. With the wilderness close by, the wild animals and forest inform his life. He has never seen an art book and has no knowledge of other artists.
Williams had a harsh childhood. His mother died when he was 11 and he was left to care for his invalid father. He turned to alcohol when he was 12 and began creating his own inner world. He still dwells, he says, in his “innerness”. His inspiration for painting began in the most unusual way. He developed a technique of staring into the sun; after the blackness came an explosion of beautiful colours, which formed the basis of his art. His work began with cheap felt pens on found cardboard. He never thought to sign his paintings because he doesn’t consider himself an artist.
I have only one photo to show you. When asked to describe his work, Williams said it is about innerness – the eye within. His third eye is a critical part of his artistic process. If you
happen to pick up the spring/summer 2011 edition of Raw Vision, you can see an amazing collection of his work. It is freestyle, colourful, and tranquil.
Williams’s artwork came to the attention of Gallery Gachet – a Vancouver centre for dissident and visionary artists. He was reluctant to attend his own exhibit, but did come into town to experience the event. Sadly, Thompkins told me that Williams has not picked up a paintbrush since then. I have often worried about exposing artwork that was not intended for our eyes. Is this what happens when we do?