Artist Spotlight Series: Herb Williams


There have been so many great art openings and shows recently.

I am excited to introduce you to a creative talent in my latest Artist Spotlight Series feature and also to invite you to an opening on Thursday in Charlotte at Sozo Gallery.

This one is not to be missed. 

Enjoy getting to know 

Herb Williams

Nashville, Tennessee


What is your training? 

I got a regular bachelors of art from a four year liberal arts college, Birmingham Southern, in Alabama and then went on to work at a bronze Foundry for a few years down in West Palm Beach. After that I moved up to Nashville, Tennessee and set up a studio where I’ve been for the past 25 odd years 

What inspires you and your designs?

lately my inspiration comes from directly interacting with nature. I’m really interested in the idea that there’s more happening right in front of us that we just are too busy or too distracted to notice. There’s this condition called synesthesia, where you hear a sound and see a specific color. It got me to explore the notion that nature and the animal kingdom use a higher functioning form of synesthesia in every simple thing they do. Where landing on a branch can send a ripple of color that has specific meaning, or drinking from a creek can send out waves of color that have specific meaning, or simply howling at the moon can mean so much more than we could ever put into words and it’s all happening right now unbeknownst to us. 

What is your favorite piece? 

that’s like picking out a favorite child. But it’s usually the last thing I just finished. Or what I’m about to start on next. I feel that being incredibly excited about whatever you were about to do is important in keeping you young, in a state of peace, and in a condition I like to refer to as flow. 

How has the your area influenced your work?

well music city is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been, so it does encourage human interaction which constantly leads me to new ideas. However getting to hear the best music made in the world constantly informs my awareness that as an artist, you are only as well-known as your voice or your style, is distinctively different and unique from anyone else’s. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Nashville?

Marché. It’s a wonderful little restaurant right in the heart of five points in East Nashville. I’m a little biased because my 16-year-old son Clay, works there as a back waiter. But they do have some of the freshest most delicious food that I’ve enjoyed anywhere on this planet 

What is your favorite cocktail?

Now you’re speaking my language. Basically any drink that involves a good bourbon. Maybe with an ice cube depending on how warm it is outside. If it’s cooler than 50° outside no ice is even needed. The last bottle I just purchased was the new batch of Greenbrier’s sour mash whiskey from Bellmeade Bourbon. I’m a little partial to it, because my good friend Charlie Nelson owns the distillery and I’ve gotten to do some behind the scenes tasting and sniffing which is kind of magic 

How do you balance personal life and work?

That’s a great question. I’m not sure I’ve entirely figured that one out yet. It cost me one marriage and probably a decent helping of sanity. As an artist it’s difficult to turn that stream of inspiration off. And whenever you have the next great idea it’s very hard not to lean over and share it with whomever you’re with. I’ve been told that at times it can be a bit overwhelming and make it seem like my grip on reality may be slipping as well. Now I just try to bring my family along with me whenever I do a an exhibit or show or travel for my work.

Dream trip?

When I was 23 I’ve visited the MOMA in San Francisco for the first time. It was so inspirational that it moved me to create work out of crayons in hopes of one day exhibit exhibiting the artwork Worthy of that museum. So yeah I would love to get a call from the MOMA and ask and be asked to come up and install the show in San Francisco or New York. I would definitely take a couple of weeks it’s off after work and either town to celebrate

Dream commission?

I would like to create several different rooms of installation art for a new experiential art museum. I think it would be incredible to experiment with scale in my crayon sculptures so that adults could get the feeling of being a small child. Cracking open A good sense of wonder is essential to the mind staying young.

Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

 A bottle of bourbon never goes out of style. Or a single flower in a vase is timeless.

Who is your style icon?

 Have you seen Jeremiah Johnson? Seriously, I think Willie Nelson meets David Byrne would be more my speed.

Your favorite up and coming artist?

Locally, there’s a great artist named Devin Drake who has these amazing completely photo-real three-dimensional miniature cityscape sculptures. They’re fascinating and just mind blowing with the attention to detail.

What is your most treasured possession?

I try not to let the physical world dictate too much of my wants and needs, however, I do own a gold 1979 Ford crew-cab Ranger long bed named Golgatha. Just looking at her outside makes me happy and drops my blood pressure a few points. She’s the same model truck that I first learned to drive in down on our family pecan orchard in Autauga county Alabama. She got her name from the horse the truck would pull the trailer for to the races up in Kentucky. The family I bought her from took the bronze nameplate off of the stall of the horse and mounted it onto the dashboard. Now, if Golgotha was where Christ was crucified can you imagine what a beast Golgatha was?

What are you reading? 

lately I’ve been reading a lot of Louis l’Amour western novels. I think I’m yearning for a simpler time.

I just finished WEB Du Bois’s  The History of Black Folks novel. when I was in college we didn’t have African-American studies so I never really got to learn about it. His idea that the color line is the main problem of the 20th century is still very relevant for the 21st. I really enjoyed his brilliance and sheer  ability to live ahead of and within his own heartbreaking time. Gave me lots of ideas for sculptures and symbolic paintings.

What are you listening to?

I love The Rural Alberta Advantage. Great band unique sound.

But also my daughter writes and sings her own songs and my son is an incredible guitarist totally eclipsed my own ability, Very humbling.

What are your favorite blogs / publications?

I follow Colossal and My Modern Metropolis, but Instagram is an incredible tool for artists, because I can follow my living heroes and see exactly what they’re digging right now. How Ai Weiwei is joining the protesters in Hong Kong, or Olafur Eliasson is experimenting with refraction and light, or how Jimmy Carter at 95 is visiting my city and building homes with habitat for humanity after falling and getting a blackeye. 

Be sure to follow Herb Williams on Instagram and enjoy her portfolio. 


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I hope to see you Thursday.

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