Dittmar Exhibit Dramatizes Chasm Between Blacks and Whites

“Neither Free | Nor” features new paintings by Brittney Leeanne Williams 

•    20th-century landscape art dramatized by contrasting experience of its black subjects
•    Work explores black femininity and the possibility of transcendence
•    Show is on view Feb. 16 to March 28 at Dittmar Gallery in Norris Center

EVANSTON, Ill. — On Feb. 16, Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery will unveil an exhibition of new paintings titled “Neither Free | Nor” by Brittney Leeanne Williams, exploring the chasm between blacks and whites and the notion of black femininity and redemption.

Williams’ inviting pastoral scenes are at odds with the suffering and memorialization of its black subjects, but the possibility of transcendence is also present. The exhibition will be on display through March 28 at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston.
Fairfield Porter’s “The Plane Tree” (1964) serves as the muse for Williams’ dramatic take on 20th-century landscape paintings, turning pastoral scenes into memorial ground. The tree leaves, blossoms and branches become ceremonial objects through their proximity to the black body. Others sources of inspiration include Alex Katz and David Hockney.

The series engages narratives of “whiteness,” frequently situating contrasting images within the same frame as black subjects, creating a visual tension that exposes the chasm between black and white communities. As one community feasts, the other grieves. The work also explores the role of black femininity within the iconography of the female form. The images evoke the possibility of salvation as women bow in prayer or weep. 

Ultimately, “Neither Free | Nor” addresses the inevitability of physical suffering co-existing with the inescapable hope and possibility of redemption. 

Originally from Los Angeles, Brittney Leeanne Williams attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2008 to 2009 and is currently a HATCH resident at Chicago Artists Coalition. Her work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Chicago, Madison, Wisconsin, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She also does conceptual work, including set design for the short film “Self-Deportation.” Most recently, Williams worked on set design for Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Peh-Lo-Tah,” which will tour to the Kennedy Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2017. 

“Neither Free | Nor” opens Feb. 16 and continues through March 28 at Dittmar Memorial Gallery on the Evanston campus. An opening reception is planned from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 16. 

For more information, contact Dittmar Gallery at 847-491-2348 or Norris University Center at 847-491-2300, email dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit the Dittmar website
Dittmar Gallery is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle.  


Editors’ Picks