~ The following first appeared in the summer issue of It’s All About Her, a regional news magazine insert.
From down-home to Art Nouveau, from poster to portrait and more, as an artist Emily Williamson has done it all. Born and raised in Floyd County, it’s not surprising that some of her paintings are of barns, old cars, fiddle players and mountain scenery. “I take cues from my environment and gather inspiration from it,” said the mother of seven-year-old Indigo (represented in Williamson’s portrait in photo #5) from the ridge-top home that they share.
Art came naturally to Williamson at a young age. “I remember winning a contest that my mom put me in when I was four or five,” she said. In high school she got a lot of attention for doing portraits that captured the likeness of her subjects. After high school she studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University but didn’t cope well with city life and soon returned to the country.
Daughter of the late WVTF public radio personality Seth Williamson, Williamson is a versatile artist that draws her poetic sensibility and love of nature from her father. Her mother’s preserving and outgoing personality, in spite of a handicap, were also foundational.
Having worked in many styles and mediums, from realistic to illustrations, from pastels to pencils, Williamson currently paints primarily with acrylics and sometimes uses a light color wash on her paintings, giving them a watercolor effect.
Her reputation as a talented artist has led to a wide variety of commissions, including a partnership with The Republic of Floyd Emporium in downtown Floyd. Collaborating with the Republic of Floyd owner, Williamson creates designs with Floyd themes for the emporium’s line of wholesale and retail merchandise, t-shirts, caps, mugs, playing cards, postcards and more. Many of her original poster prints are framed and for sale at the emporium. Her prints can also be purchased at the Bell Gallery & Garden, also downtown.
Williamson’s contribution to the art scene in Floyd is substantial. She has designed merchandise art for the Floydfest music festival, regional wine festivals, Red Rooster Coffee Roaster and more. She’s painted signs and artwork for a number of Floyd businesses, including the Grateful Bread Bakery, Living Light Wellness Center and the Floyd Farmers Market. Her work will be exhibited in an upcoming juried show at the Jacksonville Center for the Arts.
In 2010 Williamson created a poster and logo for the 100th year anniversary of the Floyd Country Store, home of the celebrated Friday Night Jamboree. Some of her work has been donated for fundraising events, like the Mardi Gras posters she did for the Blue Mountain School when her daughter was enrolled there.
Adding to her commissioned body of work, Williamson has also illustrated a book for a local writer, designed an album cover, painted a horse-logging mural on a Floydfest sound-booth and created music posters for some of Dogtown Roadhouse’s headline events. “My name has gotten out there, but I can do so much more,” said the artist about her commissioned work.
But Williamson’s artistic talents stretch out far beyond the canvas. She is also a performing artist, and has danced on a variety of venue stages, including the Floydfest main stage when she was a member of as a Gyroscopic, a local belly dancing troupe that she helped found.
Known for the exotic costumes she makes herself, Williamson enjoys interacting with other performers and keeping a creative balance to the solitary activity of painting. “I love performing. It’s exciting and kind of scary. It keeps life interesting,” she said.
As a performer of modern and belly dance, Williamson has worked with local professional dancers, such as Ilima Ursomarso, Jennifer Spieden and Leia Jones, who, like Williamson, is a member of the Evo-latic Dance Collective. Other highly regarded dancers that Williamson has taken classes and workshops with include Zoe Jakes, Onca O’Leary and the Fat Chance Belly Dance dancers. She has performed for New Year’s Eve events and other shows with Scintillation, a Charlottesville-based fire dance troupe.
“As a kid I was drawn to show tunes and musicals,” recalled Williamson, adding that she likes to put on dance shows. The most recent production that Williamson was instrumental in presenting was the One-Stoplight Variety Show, a performing arts showcase of entertainment that took place at Oddfellas Cantina in Floyd. Apart from the three dance routines she performed during the show (solo and with Leia Jones), the multi-talented artist also accompanied a singer on vocals and hand-drums.
Williamson, who frequently paints from photographs, has modeled for local businesses and independent photographers. She recalled one photo shoot that was set outside of Las Vegas. Williamson has been one of the subjects in a locally produced film, A Matter of Art, and has appeared in Pyrometheus, an independent film shot in Charlottesville.
Pursing her interest in folk and country music, Williamson recently recorded a CD at Floyd’s Windfall Studio as a member of The Unapologetics, a group which consists of Williamson, Erica Joy Olsen and John Wilson. Always looking for new inspiration, she is considering a move, maybe to Roanoke, she thinks, citing the Taubman Museum of Art and more opportunities for classes as motivating factors.
When asked what she sees herself creating in the future, she joked, “If I die without doing some fabulous murals that a lot of people can see then I will have been a failure.”
“I’ll be sharing a booth at Floydfest this year,” Williamson noted. She encourages festival-goers to stop by and see her latest work. They might even catch her dancing in one of her exotic costumes with members of Evo-latic. The collective is scheduled to perform impromptu dances throughout the festival weekend. Colleen Redman
Note: Emily Williamson can be reached at 540-206-5801. Visit her on Facebook.