“Meet an Artist Monday” is an ongoing series of mini Q&A’s with some of L.A.’s most active and eclectic contemporary artists, introducing themselves to you in their own words. This week, we meet painter, sculptor and installation artist Timothy Warren Williams, whose particular vision merges elements of beach culture and Goth, trauma and triumph in his eloquent elevation of salvaged materials into visceral Postmodern surfer-noir talismans.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
TIMOTHY WARREN WILLIAMS: Roger Herman was my girlfriend’s UCLA art professor. Hermans' critiques were brutal; he seldom liked anything his students painted and wouldn’t acknowledge your presence until you painted something worthy. Simone took my second-ever painting to Roger’s class and played my music. He stared at the painting for a long time and got into the music. When the song ended he looked Simone in the eye and said, “Timothy’s a hell of a talent.” Hearing this it was clear being an artist wasn’t a pipe dream.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Telling painful personal stories with materials no one wants.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Philanthropist and demolition expert in locations where surfing and motorcycle riding is good.
Did you go to art school? Why/why not?
Pepperdine, B.A. in fine art. I was a trained, touring and recording musician at 18 with Scared Straight. My favorite musicians, Bowie, Bauhaus, Peter Gabriel, Andy Summers, Perry Farrell — they all studied, made, and collected art. They were light years ahead of other music-makers with their aesthetics and music; complete artists. Art was the only wave of creativity I wanted to learn to ride. The artists in my punk rock scene, Nardcore, were the coolest cats in town.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was born and raised here surfing, riding motorcycles, skating, and creating music and art. My creative friends share these endeavors and lifestyle. To engage in these pursuits year-round there is no place on Earth like Los Angeles, California.
When was your first show?
1996, Westminster Garage Gallery, Venice; curated by the artist Terrell Moore. It was an outrageous experience. I was hanging the show the night before when Chuck A Luck the local crack enthusiast came riding sky high into the gallery on a bike. He rode furiously around in circles quietly and then straight up to my door works, slamming on the brakes within inches and howling — then repeating the process. No one said anything; we just kept working. Suddenly he killed the crazy and calmly started drinking beer with us. After that I knew it would be great show. Around 500 people showed for the reception and it was a raging affair from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Alan Mindel showed up with Christian Slater, Don Dokken pulled up in a Ferrari. A wild, beautiful French girl started screaming wacky crypto somethings at me, and with my lack of response raged into the bathroom, scrawled French in lipstick all over the mirrors, and broke a tear gas vial! The gallery emptied, Terrell turned on fans, the show went on, the keg was drained and the last thing I saw was a fist fight next to my Skeleton Windows by two guys arguing over playing Bob Dylan vs. Johnny Cash on the stereo. A few days later Alan bought a painting and took Terrell and I out for lunch. After becoming friends, the French girl modeled for a photo shoot.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
Sunshine Deathmask L.A. at WNDO at 361 Vernon Ave. in Venice. It opens Saturday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. It's curated by Jim Budman, and will feature works from my recent show Sunshine Deathmask N.Y. at Paul Calendrillo Gallery in New York, as well as new works. Black Cat Gallery — my Dream Pop/Ethereal Gothic band — will be mixed in a set by DJ Darren Revell (Big Sonic Heaven), and Black Cat Gallery will also perform at 8 p.m., with live painting by Norton Wisdom.
And then Darkwaver CA, solo exhibit at the Ventura Museum sometime in 2019.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
I'll have to answer for the living and dead. Showing next to Ed Moses at Track 16 was a huge high. Man, I miss the West Coast Lion! In art school we took a trip to LACMA to see Robert Longo's epic, Gothic, multimedia show; that knocked me out. The whole way home in the car to Malibu I argued its power, execution, and originality with my professor who had nothing but disdain for it. That show was THE design influence for the Matrix film. For SWELL: Art 1950-2010 at Friedrich Petzel Gallery NY, my Dark Ocean, Dark Sea hung next to Longo's Boris wave. Both works sold, and Robert sent a congrats email with invite for a studio visit and surf in Montauk. A two man show with Longo at Petzel is the dream.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
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ALWAYS! Brit Masters: Bowie, Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, Chameleons UK, The Police, Peter Gabriel, The Verve, The Orb, My Bloody Valentine, The Cranes, Underworld, Slowdive, Massive Attack; ’80s 4AD bands; Creation Records bands, Christian Death, Jane's Addiction, Mazzy Star, Black Flag, Black Cat Gallery, Nardcore bands: Scared Straight, Aggression, Ill Repute, Stalag 13 — and the greatest composer of all: J.S. Bach.