A colourful way of bringing attention to South Side Chicago

EARLIER this year Amanda Williams was asked to be a creative consultant on the Obama Presidential Library. This was an surprising honour for an artist who had earned a public profile in her hometown of Chicago only two years before, thanks to a single project as declamatory as it was thoughtful. 

Ms Williams grew up on the South Side, and found herself in a rut as an architect when she decided, in 2004, to give it up for painting what she now describes, with typical self-effacement, as “out-dated abstract expressionism”.  Then she almost inadvertently revitalised her career in an instinctive act that officialdom might describe as “vandalism” and her friends as “upcycling”. Using a palette of colours which drew on her memories of her childhood in the district of Gresham, she transformed a series of dilapidated houses in the South Side into hunks of vibrant colour. The vivid scarlet recalls a pack of Cheetos, and the purple, a popular hair product.  “I knew what I was doing was illegal, and I am a goodie-two-shoes. The city or the alderman could have stopped what I was doing at any time. I was genuinely worried about retribution,” she says. 

And yet the transgression, which she still describes with a strange detachment, as if it was done by some other person, has brought to her to the forefront of an emerging art scene….Continue reading

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