Pat Ward Williams

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Pat Ward Williams
Artist Pat Ward Williams at the premiere of Through A Lens Darkly, April 4, 2014.jpg
Pat Ward Williams in 2014
EducationBFA, Moore College of Art and Design;
MFA, Maryland Institute College of Art
Known forPhotography, Public Art

Pat Ward Williams (born 1948) is an African-American photographer whose work often engages with the complexities of race, gender, and history.[1] In addition to her smaller-scale photographs and installations, she has designed three public artworks in Los Angeles.

Williams holds a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design (1982) and an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (1987).[2]


One of Williams’ best known works is Accused/Blowtorch/Padlock (1986), which consists of an image of a black man tied to a tree (originally published in Life magazine in 1937 and not attributed to a specific photographer), surrounded by text expressing the artist’s reaction to this image.[3]

Williams has explained her intent in the work and how that relates to the title of the piece: “I force the viewer to look at what is really going on by dissecting the important body of information and by directing with text what the viewer should notice: the tied hands (accused), the scarred back (blowtorch), and the lock, chain, and tree (padlock).”[4] Art historian Dora Apel has argued that in including the text of her own response to the image, Williams “attempts to define for the viewer the relationship between violence, spectacle, and public representation.”[4]

Accused/Blowtorch/Padlock has been included in exhibitions such as The Decade Show, a large-scale collaborative exhibition by the New Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, as well as in Art, Women, California 1950–2000: Parallels and Intersections at the San Jose Museum of Art.[5][6]

Williams was part of the Photo-Active Feminist Visiting Artists 1998–99 Series, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and The University of Michigan School of Art and Design and Women's Studies Program. The group of artists, which also included Paula Allen, Barbara Kruger, Susan Meiselas, Connie Samaras, Kathy Constantinides, Wendy Ewald, and Marilyn Zimmerman, were chosen for their engagement with social and political issues in their work and traveled to the University of Michigan to present their work to students and the community.[1]

In 1992, Williams published the exhibition catalog Probable Cause, which contained a series of photographs shown at the Goldie Paley Gallery at Moore College of Art and Design.[7]

Public art[edit]

Williams has also created three public artworks in Los Angeles. In 1995, she designed The Emperor of the Great 9th District, a memorial to Gilbert Lindsay installed at the Los Angeles Convention Center.[8] The monument consists of three 10-foot high, triple-sided concrete pillars featuring a portrait of Lindsay at his desk. When viewers move closer, they see that the large image of Lindsay is made up of 104 smaller tiles that contain additional images of Lindsay with his family, staff, and other public figures, including Martin Luther King, Jr.[8]

Williams’ 2001 work Starbursts decorates the Hollywood and Highland Center. Inspired by the finale dance scene of Busby Berkeley’s 1934 film Dames, Williams created circular images that mimic the camera angles in the film. The photo-etched images are on black granite and can be seen on the upper and lower entrance plaza floors of the Dolby Theatre.[9]

In 2003, Williams created the public artwork Everyday People for the Lake metro station in Los Angeles. The work consists of large photographs of local people mounted on colored glass panels.[10]


Williams has taught photography at UC Irvine and as a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Technikon Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa.[2] She currently teaches at Florida State University, where she has worked since 2000.[11]


Williams' daughter, Janaya Williams, is a radio producer at National Public Radio in Washington, DC.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Pat Ward Williams". Women's Studies 483. University of Michigan. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Pat W Williams Curriculum Vitae". Florida State University Faculty Profiles. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  3. ^ Doss, Erika (2002). Twentieth-Century American Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ a b Apel, Dora (2004). Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob. Rutgers University Press.
  5. ^ "Pat Ward Williams". New Museum Digital Archive. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  6. ^ Burgess Fuller, Diana, ed. (2002). Art, Women, California 1950–2000: Parallels and Intersections. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23065-1.
  7. ^ Williams, Pat Ward (1992). Probable Cause. Philadelphia: The Goldie Paley Gallery. ASIN B0006EX8U4.
  8. ^ a b Gordon, Larry (March 31, 1995). "Monument in the Image of 'the Emperor' : Tribute: A huge artwork honors the late Gilbert Lindsay, who was a powerful player on the City Council for 27 years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  9. ^ "Pat Ward Williams: Starbursts". CRA/LA. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  10. ^ "Everyday People, 2003". LA Metro. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. ^ "Pat Ward Williams". Florida State University: Department of Art. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  12. ^ "The 'All Things Considered' Staff". National Public Radio. April 20, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2019.