A self-portrait of  D’Angelo Lovell Williams (photo courtesy the artist)

This article is part of Hyperallergics Pride Month series, featuring an interview with a different transgender or nonbinary emerging or mid-career artist every weekday throughout the month of June.

“Sometimes people don’t believe something exists until they see it.” The words of Brooklyn-based nonbinary artist D’Angelo Lovell Williams reverberate in their photographs, which often portray queer Black people — including the artist themself — in settings and situations that invite reflection on the subjects’ specific existence and individuality. “The Lovers” (2017), for instance, titled in reference to René Magritte’s painting of the same name, depicts Williams and a former partner in an embrace reminiscent of the Surrealist composition, their faces covered by black durags worn backward. Perhaps best known for their photographic work, the artist is far from limited to a single medium or mode of expression; recently, they’ve taken up weaving to translate photo-based portraits into yarn, reconfiguring their poetic significance in the context of craft and family tradition. The interview below elucidates the commitment to compassion and collective knowledge that underlies Williams’s practice, bringing us even closer to their vision of queer intimacy and nuance.

Hyperallergic: What is the current focus of your artistic practice?

D’Angelo Lovell Williams: Much of my work is built around my relationship with my own body and the performance of everyday life and imagination. Recently, I have been using photographs I’ve made as well as family photographs as source material to create woven portraits. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, drawing and painting from life, sculpting, making ceramics, throwing pots on the wheel, and printmaking before photography became my medium of choice. After focusing on making photographs for a while I felt it necessary to incorporate the mediums that allowed me to experiment more hands-on. I’ve been drawing again in general because I was a little rusty, but more specifically for the weavings, which don’t have to be extremely detailed drawings at this point. These recent weavings, made of cotton and acrylic yarns, are small but mighty. My weaving has been inspired by my interests in touch, intimacy, and kinship, as well as ideas of caregiving and caretaking. I love the thought of making images from scratch. 

 D’Angelo Lovell Williams, “I Used To Think I Was The Antichrist” (2023), cotton yarn, acrylic yarn, 11 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (image courtesy the artist and Higher Pictures)

H: In what ways — if any — does your gender identity play a role in your experience as an artist?

DLW: I feel I exist on a spectrum and like to see my work from that same perspective. My grandmother, who passed in 2021, made clothes, quilts, and crocheted blankets before I was born. I didn’t learn how to do any of this from her while she was alive. Inspired by others who love textiles and making, I just learned how to use my sewing machine from my best friend. As someone who identifies as nonbinary, determining how I show up in my lived life and what appears in the work can be challenging. The difficult part is challenging what others expect of me as a person based on what someone sees in my work.

D’Angelo Lovell Williams, “Like the Floating Wet Lotus of the Nile’s Fertile Ground, Burying You Was Never An Option” (2022), pigment print, 45 x 30 inches, edition of 8 (image courtesy the artist and Higher Pictures)

I like to expand narratives of Blackness and queerness through the lives of those close to me. Whether I’m photographing, working with video, or making weavings, the way I feel in my own body shows up in those works. I have a photograph titled “Granny and Paw Paw’s Guns” (2021), for example, where I am standing outside my granny’s house wearing this long, black Wales Bonner dress and proudly holding my grandparents’ rifles in resilience. In another image titled “Like the Floating Wet Lotus of the Nile’s Fertile Ground, Burying You Was Never An Option” (2022), I am standing on a stool in a bathroom wrapped in this blue African washcloth. I’m covered by suds which allows the washcloth to cling to my body like a dress.

Sometimes people don’t believe something exists until they see it. I like merging these worlds and lives that I feel are static and unchanging in people’s minds. This could be through referencing nudity, literal and figural gestures, clothing or materials I use to suggest softness or hardness, or performance. So far, my weavings have been portraits of family and friends, but I’m beginning to make weavings that are more narrative and dynamic in the ways that my photographs and video work are. I’m always thinking about narratives of Black queer community and solitude that are nostalgic and ancestral, but also exploring the science of intimacy. 

H: Which artists inspire your work today? What are your other sources of inspiration?

DLW: Some of the visual artists that are inspiring me right now are Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu, Diedrick Brackens, Deana Lawson, Derek Fordjour, and my friends Clifford Prince King, Rashad Royal, Kiyan Williams, Hugh Hayden, and Jarvis Boyland. I’m inspired by their attention to details and their use of mediums and materials. I’m inspired by their imaginations and their grasps of reality. 

 D’Angelo Lovell Williams, “Fire-Moon Inertia (Recto)” (2021), pigment print, 45 x 30 inches, edition of 8 (image courtesy the artist and Higher Pictures)

I’ve been inspired by a lot of textiles and weavings on most days. I love looking at different weavings and anything woven. Currently, I’m sifting through inspirations and living through them. It’s not all active work and my day-to-day involves a lot of leisure in nature or indoors. I try to see exhibitions consistently and support friends by showing up to things they have going on. I’m always listening to music, watching all kinds of films, or seeing a Broadway show when I can. I love singing for fun and love to have people who can sing around me, haha. My cousin, Anastasia Talley, my only family member in New York City, is on Broadway in MJ: The Musical. I got to see her perform as Katherine Jackson last year, but I rarely get to see her because she’s so busy. She is such an inspiration always. Many are from afar, but it’s great to have ones that are accessible I think when my inspirations merge I feel more alive. Theater, music, dance, cinema, and fashion are constantly on my mind. 

H: What are your hopes for the LGBTQIA+ community at the current moment?

DLW: There is no hope for us, haha. But honestly, I hope that our wants, needs, and desires are met within our lifetime. Ideally, we can help where we can and seek help when we need it. I also hope we can live judgment-free and free of judgment. 

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

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