Visual artist Fabian Williams, who has been named one of Playboy’s 2017 “new creatives,” completed his new mural on the parking deck at Studioplex today. It depicts Hosea Williams, who worked fearlessly alongside Martin Luther King Jr. to desegregate the South.
“He is a civil rights icon, and there are no pictures of him in the city,” says Williams, who despite the last name has no relation to his subject. “So I did a fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark mural of Hosea Williams complete with hieroglyphics and a hieroglyphics key in gold foil.” Lights will be added soon to activate that glow effect at night.
“When’s the last time you’ve seen a picture of Joseph Lowery or Maynard Jackson or Ralph David Abernathy? There’s not a lot of visual representation of these people, but hopefully this will help change that,” Williams says.
Williams’s legal battles with Atlanta were detailed in the New York Times last month. Earlier this year, the city suggested it might begin to enforce an as-yet unpracticed 2003 ordinance requiring street artworks—even those on private property—to go through a series of government approvals. Williams joined other artists in taking the issue to Federal District Court, and while the city has not responded, lawyers are discussing a settlement.
Dillon Baynes, who manages Studioplex, hired Williams to create this particular mural. The artist had submitted his concept when Studioplex put out an open call for idea submissions, and Williams “won.” He then just had to get the green light from the city and from Hosea Williams’s family.
Williams says he likes to paint images of black people “in ways that I feel like I haven’t seen—in public spaces.” He also says he enjoys imagining what the future will be like. “I want to paint pictures of us in a future tense where we are thriving, where we’re not reflecting on the bullshit that has happened to us, but are returning to a time when we were thriving.”
Originally from North Carolina, Williams lived in Los Angeles before moving to Atlanta “because of Outkast, to be honest,” he says. “It’s the vibe here. I used to visit Atlanta when I was in college, and every time I came here it was magical.”