Meet 2017 Official Artist Dennis Paul Williams
This year’s Official Festivals Acadiens et Créoles Pin and Poster Artist is St. Martinville native Dennis Paul Williams. He was tasked with creating a piece of original artwork in line with the 2017 Festivals theme “Band of Instrument Makers.” Williams is still putting the finishing touches on the poster art, but was able to share some insight into his inspiration and life’s work.
Embracing his Creole heritage, Williams wanted the 2017 poster to reflect who he is as an artist and also represent the music, food and art that Festivals Acadiens et Créoles celebrates each year. “It has all those components and is very musical and lyrical to me,” he says.
His poster will also be a bit more contemporary than some in year’s past and includes the bright colors, ancestral icons and spiritual energy his work has become known for. Expressing the festival’s “earthy rhythm,” the art features silhouettes of instruments, a possible direction for the 2017 pin.
“Great art has to reflect our culture and the times we live in,” Williams says, “but should not put limits on us. My work is created with a spirit in mind.”
Transparency comes through in this piece, with images floating to signify rhythm and patterns overlaid in a linear quality to represent the paths our lives take. “Music is movement,” he says. “It’s pretty hot around here and the music reflects that, as does the kind of food we eat and the kinds of conversations and fellowship we have. Being from here is like being from no other place.”
Williams began his career at the age of 10 with a self-portrait on a pillowcase. Influenced by the death of his father and a diagnosis of congenital heart failure, his works took on an expression of deep spirituality. He’s also been influenced by Louisiana’s Creole culture and music. As guitarist for his brother’s band Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, he has traveled the world and played the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles stage over the years.
He has several books of his work out, including Soul Exchange: The Paintings of Dennis Paul Williams and the forthcoming Spirits of the Gods with poet John Warner Smith.
While Williams has created posters for Festival International, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and Washington D.C. Mardi Gras, this is his first time working on the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles poster.
The 2017 Pin and Poster will be unveiled on Sept. 8 at the A. Hays Town Building at the Hilliard University Art Museum from 6-8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.