Diane Williams explores social issues with her unconventional art exhibit, ‘INcongruence’

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Diane Williams explores social issues with her unconventional art exhibit, ‘INcongruence’

Students view the ceiling and wall-hanging art with the words

Students view the ceiling and wall-hanging art with the words "migrant" weaved atop a combination of fabrics and strings. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

Students view the ceiling and wall-hanging art with the words "migrant" weaved atop a combination of fabrics and strings. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

Students view the ceiling and wall-hanging art with the words "migrant" weaved atop a combination of fabrics and strings. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

By Natalie Hyman

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Diane Williams is a dynamic artist who takes her life journey and makes it into a versatile visual experience that makes people question cultural and societal norms. Her exhibit, which is currently being displayed in the Moorpark College Art Gallery, is called “INcongruence,” which she intends as a play on words. It can mean that society is “in” congruence, or harmony, or it could mean quite the opposite.

She works with many different mediums, from sculpted masks to installations, and displays her many works in galleries and museums all over California.

This particular exhibit consists of a series of interwoven, recycled fabrics that she gathers from friends and family or purchases from immigrant-run shops. She then weaves these fabrics onto chicken wire, spelling out words like “immigrant” and “fear”, and then hangs them. The result is a web of contrasting colors and lengths of yarn and a simple word standing out among the eruption of color that leaves an imprint on the viewers’ mind.

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A spectator takes a photo of the vibrant display in the Moorpark College Administration Building. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

In her art talk on Tues., March 12, Williams talked about her mindset for producing these artworks.

“I am referencing myself a lot in these things. I am an intersectional immigrant of color, so I am always referencing myself as a woman, as an immigrant, and as a person of color,” Williams said. “And [it’s also about] understanding how our choices are often really motivated by our culture; we’re a byproduct of our culture.”

“Even language: the word ‘immigrant’ a few years ago was actually celebrated, a lot of politicians talked about immigrants in a good light,” she said. “But over time it changes, like our cultures changes.”

Williams came here as an immigrant from the Philippines and empathizes with the struggles of other immigrants who wish to integrate into society.

She shared a memory from her childhood where her dad had no money after just coming to America. She would want to buy designer-brand clothes, like Guess Jeans, but would end up buying the cheaper knockoffs. This, among other memories, really symbolized what being an immigrant is like for Williams. She makes sure to let this bleed into her work.

“I wanted to emphasize the generational aspect of what being an immigrant is about,” she said. “I think my job as an artist is to present a different perspective. It’s really [about] how people react to the [artworks].”

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Diane Williams poses for a photo beside her work spelling "immigration." Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

Williams says she knows her work is unconventional, but she believes that this is what makes it more impactful, even on a small scale.

“My art is subdued; [I] go on the side and bring a perspective in an ambiguous way,” she says, “Doing it this way creates more of a change; it’s more interpersonal.”

A Moorpark art student, Angela Lovas, speaks on what she found special about this art.

“I think it’s cool that it’s [made of] stuff from her community that she gathered, so it’s unique in that way.” She also speaks about the interpretive nature of the work. “Ambiguity is okay in art, it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other, it can be in-between.”

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A gallery spectator walks between two art installations. A rope resembling a noose hangs on the left among the flurry of strings. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

While some people find the ambiguity intriguing, others are puzzled by it. Katherine Shirinyan, a Moorpark College graphic design student, speaks about her thoughts on the art.

“If I’m being honest I don’t connect with it very well. I just see that it says ‘immigration’ and I don’t see what she’s trying to say about immigration,” she said. “I get her technique and her concept, but I don’t really understand what she’s trying to [say].”

Though her work is ambiguous, Williams works hard to make it that way. She explains the long hours that go into it, but also her awareness of its interpretive message.

“I could be painting or making wall-hanging work that can sell at a gallery,” she said. “Most of the time I’m doing things that people can’t even see. It’s hours of work that I put into it, and unless I talk about it like I did today, no one knows I’m doing [it].”

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Details of yarn and fabrics that Diane Williams salvages from friends, family, and immigrant-run shops. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

Erika Lizee, Art Professor and Art Gallery Director who discovered Williams, speaks on how she found her work and why she decided to bring it to Moorpark.

“I saw her work at Gallery 825 last year and thought it would be great to bring to our campus, as her process and message are so intertwined,” she said. “I also find her work to be very timely with what is happening in our society with the ongoing battle over the border wall with Mexico and the struggles with immigration policy in the U.S.”

Williams wants to ensure her work is not flashy and does not push an agenda; she simply puts it out there to see how people respond to it. It is something that is very personal to her and others like her, and she wishes to reach people–positively or negatively–through her art.

“I present a different perspective; I don’t want to tell people what to do or how to think,” said Williams. “These aren’t didactic. I just wanna see how people react to them, if they have a favorable or unfavorable reaction, I’m good.”

Even still, her goal is to actively, but not overtly, get people thinking about the way society is, and what they feel is wrong with it. She references an existential philosopher who speaks about Praxis, which Williams defines as, “making the work, and also going out there and doing what you’re preaching.”

“When we create work about a certain subject, especially about some social issue, and you’re just creating it to hang, you’re not doing much about it to change things,” said Williams. “Then what good is that?”

Williams is an artist with a BFA in drawing and painting from Calif. State Long Beach and has displayed her work in many different exhibits, with her most recent achievement being her work “Woman/Animal/Other” making the front page of Artillery Magazine, a contemporary art magazine based in Los Angeles.

Her exhibit “INcongruence” will be displayed until April 1 in the Moorpark College Art Gallery in the Administration Building.

For any questions or inquiries, you can contact her from her website.

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