"The past is never dead.
It's not even past."
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 Ive 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.
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 Rawlings novel, The Yearling,
and youll 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 Floridas 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
Souths 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 Bettyes" paintings.
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.
asked Bettye Williams what motivates her. The answer didnt 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 Im 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.
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."
NOTE: You can see even more of Bettye Williams art on her website:
or at www.folkzones.com. Also, you
may contact her by email at artistBWms@aol.com. Its an easy and
economical way to buy directly from the acclaimed artist. Chances are
very good you will make a new friend!