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January 19, 2011 at 1:05pm

In Memoriam: Louise Williams 1947-2004

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Louise Williams was well loved by the Olympia area arts community. She had a short but brilliant career as an artist, teacher, wife and mother. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2000, she continued to make art until shortly before her death in 2004.

Her husband, Tom Lineham, has put together a book of Williams' art. The book is Louise Rae Williams: Her Life and Work 1947-2004. I counted 96 full-color reproductions of her paintings in this book. The art is grouped chronologically and is interspersed with writings about her life, her children and grandchildren, her friends in the art community and the causes and concerns that often haunted her - love, sex, death, motherhood; the treatment of women and children in a male-dominated world; and her keen interest in mental illness (she had a son who was mentally ill).

When I moved to Olympia in 1988 my first foray into the local art world was a visit to the Marianne Partlow Gallery. Williams was working there at the time; she welcomed me, encouraged me and introduced me to other area artists. At the time she had recently completed a residency at the Ucross Foundation in Sheridan, Wyo., and had done a haunting series of portraits of the victims of the Green River killer. Most of her work from the 1980s was dark and disturbing. She painted dead cows seen on the side of the road. She painted bloated and distorted pictures of woman, many of which were unflinchingly and unflatteringly sexual.

There was a painting called Telling the Truth that depicted a woman with a gaping, toothy, re-lipped mouth and three heads as in motion photography capturing a fast-moving face (speaking out of both sides of her mouth at once).  Similarly, there was one called Manchild showing a face with three eyes in a stark white, pasty face, and a pastel called Altarpiece depicting the wedding of a skeletal or ghostly couple - kind of funny and kind of scary. Many of the best works from these early years were pastels done on black paper. I have two of them that I traded for years ago, and I treasure them.

In the 1990s and going into the 2000s her imagery became softer, more decorative and sweeter. She was a grandmother by then, and children and family dominated her art. Reviewing an exhibition at Childhood's End Gallery in 2003 I wrote: "Williams' paintings have always been figurative, and they have always told stories; although the stories have never been explicit. Her earlier works were dark, strange, foreboding and often highly erotic. She has grown older, raised children and grandchildren, and bravely battled cancer, her paintings have become lighter, more joyful, more infused with love of humanity in general and family in particular."

For a retrospective of her work at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in 2003 Williams wrote: "Beauty's many faces have fascinated me, but the fragile truth I've found in representing the human soul and numinous spirit within has been the centerpiece of my work as an artist."

Louise Williams will long be missed. Thanks to her husband we now have this book of her art to remember her by. It is a limited edition book. There are not many copies available. While supplies last you may get yours by e-mailing Thomas Lineham at tlineham@comcast.net.

Filed under: Arts, Books, Olympia,

Comments for "In Memoriam: Louise Williams 1947-2004" (6)

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Ann Stockdale said on Jan. 20, 2011 at 1:45pm

What a wonderful tribute to louise Williams that her husband Tom was inspired to put together a book of her life and art. She must be smiling from her new universe to know that her work can now be enjoyed by so many who never got a chance to know her. I will be looking for the book.

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Sheri Ryan said on Jan. 20, 2011 at 11:37pm

It was a pleasure for me to know Louise in her Mom role, since her daughter was a friend of and attended school with my daughter. She was a proud, involved and loving mom and grandmother. The last time I saw Louise was during her art show at the Washington Center. She was beautiful, a rare talent and such an inspiration. Louise was grateful that her daughter was keeping company with a man that she and Tom approved of (and later married). It was a privilege to know Louise and I wish her family the very best..

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Becky Frehse said on Jan. 21, 2011 at 3:56am

Thank-You Tom for keeping the faith and putting this lovely book together to help us remember Louise and her amazing work. And Thanks Alec for remembering too!

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Rebecca Lineham said on Jan. 29, 2011 at 3:50pm

What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. I feel nothing short of blessed than to have had Louise in my life--her beauty lives on forever in all of the people she touched and the art that she created.

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Marjorie Power said on Feb. 04, 2012 at 1:52pm

My husband and I purchased two of Louise's pastel oil paintings - Light Struck Angel and Fig Shell Angel - several years before our move to Oregon in 2004. We continue to love these paintings and have them displayed in our large bedroom.

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Donna Orchard said on Jun. 25, 2012 at 6:57am

I inherited a painting of flowers commissioned by my aunt who lived in Mt. Vernon, WA. She and my uncle owned the Lefeber Bulb Farm. I'm trying to find the correct Louise Williams.
Thank you,
Donna Orchard

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