by Sebastiano Barcaroli

Tra inchiostro e caffè


A native to Knoxville, Tennessee, Michael Aaron Williams is best known for his ethereal portraiture. These paintings are created using coffee and ink on antique ledger paper to capture the ephemeral nature of people and society. The ledger paper comes from an old, rural Appalachian store owned by his great-great-grandparents in the early 1900’s. The fragile nature of the ledger paper mirrors the often fractured portraits that depict beauty despite their imperfections. In a similar context, Michael’s street art is a narrative of the people whose lives are lived on the streets. Community interaction with the piece is integral to its success as an installation. As an avid street artist since 2009, Michael has installed his work on the streets of over 15 different countries. Through television features and magazine publications, he has received international recognition in Brazil, Australia, China, India, Germany and the United Kingdom, amongst others. His contemporary and innovative coffee paintings have been featured on the Discovery Channel. Michael holds a BFA from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis.


«I am a borrower and a hoarder. Perpetually torn between the white walls of a gallery and the enthralling rush of the unsanctioned, I borrow a context in both of these instances. Within the gallery, my work embodies a meditative, instinctual perspective on society and its ills. Cycles of power and cycles of conflict—these clashing structures only serve to retard the productivity of the human race. In the public realm, I choose not only to question these power struggles, but also to deconstruct and subvert cultural expectations. Whether these constructs are challenged on the surface of city walls in fifteen countries around the world or at the local grocery store, I utilize my work as a form of social experimentation and connection. My studio is littered with torn pages and fractured bindings of the last two centuries. By surrounding myself with relics of the past, I draw upon an omnipresent need to connect with my heritage. I hoard these remnants to build a platform from which I can interact with the world. Coffee and ink are the vehicles by which movement and conflict are expressed. The beauty and pain of human nature are represented by the creation and deconstruction of the artwork. Rather than wholeness necessitating beauty, I portray the human soul as complete despite the fractures.»