Philemona Williamson at Montclair Art Museum. | Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


JENKINS JOHNSON GALLERY now represents Philemona Williamson. The New Jersey-based artist makes narrative paintings that capture poetic, dream-like moments that elicit multiple interpretations. The timeless, invented scenes reflect childhood and adolescent experiences and explore the nature of innocence, vulnerability, and strength through the lens of race, age, gender, and sexual identity.

A Black-owned, female-founded gallery, Jenkins Johnson has locations in San Francisco and Brooklyn, N.Y. Williamson’s engagement with the gallery dates back more than a decade. Her work was first shown in a group exhibition at Jenkins Johnson San Francisco in 2009.

Announced March 16, the new representation includes a full line up of opportunities to view the artist’s paintings and learn more about her practice in the coming year.

In May, Jenkins Johnson’s presentation at Frieze New York at The Shed will include work by Williamson.

Her first solo show with the gallery will be on view this fall in San Francisco (Sept. 11-Oct. 30, 2021). A conversation between the artist and Jacqueline Francis, a professor of art history and visual culture at California College of the Arts, coincides with the opening. In addition, a catalog will be published to accompany the exhibition. The fully illustrated volume will feature an essay by Francis.


PHILEMONA WILLIAMSON, “Red Buckled Shoes,” 2014 (oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches). | © Philemona Williamson, Courtesy the artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery


WILLIAMSON LIVES IN UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J., and works out of her studio in nearby in East Orange. She studied fine arts at Bennington College in Vermont and New York University.

The recipient of numerous awards, Williamson has exhibited widely and her work is represented in the collections of several museums, including Michigan’s Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA); Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Mass.; Hampton University Museum; and Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, Neb.

“Philemona Williamson: Metaphorical Narratives,” a mid-career retrospective of 20 paintings spanning two decades, was on view at Montclair Art Museum in 2017-18. Williamson has also participated in the MTA Arts in Transit Program in New York. “Seasons” (2007) is comprised of 18 fused glass panels installed in platform windscreens at the Livonia Avenue subway station in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Last fall, Williamson illustrated “Lubaya’s Quiet Roar,” a children’s book by Marilyn Nelson in which the title character gets lost in the joy of drawing on the back of protest posters belonging to her parents. The moving narrative blends art, social justice activism, and girl power, emphasizing that “every child, even the quietest, can make a difference in their community and world.”

Belinda Tate is the executive director of KIA in Kalamazoo, Mich., one of the few African Americans running a mainstream art museum in the United States. In a recent interview with Christie’s auction house, Tate mentions a Williamson painting acquired by the museum in 2018.

“One of my favorite works in the collection is a contemporary painting called ‘Tender Breeze’ by Philemona Williamson,” Tate said. “It depicts a group of three girls in some kind of underwater dream state. Williamson paints adolescent women, and there are so few artists who focus on a transitional time for young women when their social, emotional and physical maturity have not yet aligned. It is very complex, and we need to look at it more closely.” CT


FIND MORE about Philemona Williamson on her website

LISTEN MORE Philemona Williamson talks about her work with Brainard Carey on Yale Radio WYBC


PHILEMONA WILLIAMSON, “Tender Breeze,” 2008 (oil on linen, 4 x 5 feet / 121.9 x 152.4 cm). | © Philemona Williamson, Collection Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Purchased in memory of Martha Parfet through the generosity of her estate


PHILEMONA WILLIAMSON, “Step Lightly,” 2020 (oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches). | © Philemona Williamson, Courtesy the artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery


Philemona Williamson illustrated “Lubaya’s Quiet Roar,” the recently published children’s book by Marilyn Nelson.


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.