Fletcher Williams III may not be the most popular artist from Charleston, but he is certainly one of the most talented.
His work is racially provocative. His mediums include braided weave and sweetgrass, casts of his own teeth, gold, charcoal and palmetto roses. He's biracial and has always identified more with his Southern black heritage than his Northern white. His work, even when he was living in New York City to gain his BFA from The Cooper Union, was based on Southern blackness.
Which is why he returned home two years ago at age 26.
Fletcher explains, "I was never truly attached to New York. I didn't grow up listening to Biggie Smalls. I grew up listening UGK. I was making work about urban culture, but was mostly referencing experiences from Charleston—big cars and rims, candy paint, gold teeth. Things that became popular in New York, but things that were still stigmatized in my own city. Back in Charleston, I can create art and experience simultaneously, then respond immediately. I'm participating, seeing and interacting with people and the landscape. My content is the same as before I left, but my creative process is broader and less restrictive."
In March, Fletcher opened Souvenir, a solo art show in conjunction with Republic Reign. After researching gun violence in the Lowcountry, Fletcher created 11 ink-on-paper drawings depicting local crime scenes. He framed them in Charleston's most recognizable souvenirs: palmetto roses. No one seemed interested in showing the work, so he did it himself, saying, "I've never shown in a local gallery. I'm not one to ask permission to display my work or wait for approval. I sought alternative spaces offered by residents and business owners, and I hope to encourage more of this collaboration."
Fletcher's main goal as a local artist is to push, inform and make you feel uncomfortable until his work seems less radical and just progressive. To make Charleston, like him, more than a pretty face.
"I think there needs to be more support for artists who want to introduce imagery that is experimental, that is challenging, that is inquisitive. Not just beautiful or figurative. When you create art, you create another part of the landscape."