"The past is never dead.
It's not even past."
William Faulkner

 


She is the pride and joy of the magnificent multicultural self-taught art culture of Florida. Bettye Williams, as genuine and original in thought, style and creativity as you will ever find, is a memory painter, a term that literally defines itself. “Miss Bettye,” as I’ve always called her, began making and collecting priceless memories in her childhood days in the north Florida paradise near Monticello and after marriage and children came along, settled permanently in Bartow, a town not too far from Tampa.

My first introduction to the art of Bettye Williams was in an Atlanta gallery. I saw one of her paintings featuring a “cracker” house, some inviting orange trees in a nearby grove, a dog and some men and boys snoozing on the front porch. There was no television antenna on the roof. The title was “Super Bowl Sunday,” and after laughing myself silly, I knew it had to be in my folk art collection.

The value of folk art, in my opinion, is the relationship of the artist and the art to place. There is a connection to something that reflects experience and involvement, an immersion in the local soil and water. Observations from the recesses of the mind where we retain things that are eternal. Humor, drama, tragedy, renewal, love, fear are on equal footing. In the folk art tradition, a story can be told with a substantial amount of raw honesty, uninfluenced by rules and expectations.

It is within this framework of artistic expression that Bettye Williams has few peers. Her creativity soars on canvas. What you get from her is what she remembers and wants to tell visually. Florida - - that is original Florida - - is rather remarkable for its indigenous “cracker” culture, a term that is not derogatory, but refers to architecture, agriculture and a remarkable lifestyle. It truly began with the Spanish explorers almost three centuries ago. I regularly see cracker horses and cattle that are direct descendants from the Spanish originals.

We forget that Florida is old America and an integral part of Southern heritage and culture. Bettye Williams’ art is a history lesson.

Try to remember Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s novel, “The Yearling,” and you’ll begin an understanding of cracker culture. Bettye Williams' paintings remind me of Ms. Rawlings works and home in Cross Creek, Florida. There are strong parallels between the author Rawlings and the artist Williams. Both have transported Florida’s culture and heritage to a national and global audience.

Look carefully at Bettye Williams’ paintings. Notice the amount of detail and the use of vivid color. Florida is a land of contrasts, the South’s “Big Sky Country,” sandy soil, inland creeks, ponds and lakes, abundant forests and a huge wildlife preserve. People live in harmony with nature here to survive and because there is an ethos that demands it. It gets hot in Florida and that dictates a lifestyle that is laid back, and even influences what is on the dinner table. Catfish, hushpuppies, grits, banana pudding and watermelon feed the subjects in “Miss Bettye’s" paintings
.

The Florida Highwaymen have painted and thus preserved the landscape of Florida for future generations. Bettye Williams has likewise captured the unique culture and people of original Florida for posterity. Ms. Williams and the group of Fort Pierce based artists are artistic kinfolks and Florida should be proud.

I asked Bettye Williams what motivates her. The answer didn’t surprise me. “I love to paint,” she revealed, “and if something I create brings some happiness to a total stranger in a far away place, then I’m pleased.”

Beyond the happiness her paintings have brought me, a Bettye Williams painting is a wonderful investment. They are first-rate creations that will appreciate in value and have genuine collictability. If you have a sad wall, a dark room or a house that could use some happiness, then you need a Bettye Williams painting.

Each miraculous painting by this great artist and delightful lady is just packed with sunshine.

Stroll through our galleries of favorite Bettye Williams paintings, along with some of her "memory clips". "Honestly," she says, "I believe the folks out there enjoy my "memory clips" as much as my images."

"Companion" gallery

"Farming" gallery

"Americana" gallery

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can see even more of Bettye Williams’ art on her website: www.bettyewilliams.net or at www.folkzones.com. Also, you may contact her by email at artistBWms@aol.com. It’s an easy and economical way to buy directly from the acclaimed artist. Chances are very good you will make a new friend!

 

 

Visit with some other Folk Art Legends and Rising Stars

Explore some exciting Folk Art Festivals

See more of the Original Florida at Steinhatchee Landing

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