Molly Snyder Edler is writing an article about Stacey Williams-Ng’s new collection of "status update" paintings.
This is actually a true statement, unlike some Facebook or Twitter status updates that tend to be commentary on what just happened, what is going to happen later in the day or what the writer wishes would happen.
Regardless, Williams-Ng, a graphic designer and painter who lives in Mequon, found inspiration in her friends’ status updates and took them to another level by creating oil paintings with titles like "Eve Y. wants pie."
Williams-Ng will present her status paintings in a solo show called "What Are You Doing Right Now" at Wauwatosa’s Underwood Gallery, 1430 Underwood Ave. She is the featured artist for the 2009 Westside Artwalk, April 24-25.
The event includes music by cellist Janet Schiff and "tea tinis" made by Rishi Tea. Underwood Gallery owner Pamela Anderson found Williams-Ng, Schiff and Rishi Tea via Facebook.
"I think that people are begining to look at social media more seriously and realizing the potential it has. In our busy world today effective tools mean staying on top," says Anderson. "I think that Stacey's work is beautiful but she has taken a subject of interest and is communicating through her work. Her work is a visual storytelling."
For anyone who’s not a Tweeter or Facebooker, "status updates" are a micro-blogging feature that allow users to tell their online "friends" exactly what they are doing. Often, the status updates are clever, creative, matter-of-fact, show-offy and / or link to Web sites.
Williams-Ng is originally from Memphis, Tenn., and has lived in Milwaukee for five years. She was a MIAD instructor and received numerous awards for her work. Recently, OnMilwaukee.com tracked her down -- appropriately via Facebook -- and asked her more questions about her social media-inspired art work.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been painting? Are you trained or self-taught?
Stacey Williams-Ng: I learned oil painting in high school when I went to a college summer arts program at Middle Tennessee State University, near where I grew up, and then never stopped after that.
I later earned my BFA in graphic design -- not painting -- because my parents worried that fine art wasn't practical. I did take a year off to study painting in France, which was a life-changing experience.
I liked graphic design well enough, and made a career of it. I've been teaching and consulting in multimedia / interactive design for almost 15 years now, but I've been painting as a hobby my whole life.
OMC: How long have you been working on the paintings in this show?
SWN: I've been working on some of these concepts for a long time, but most of the paintings were produced in a whirlwind since January. This is a preliminary show of what I hope will be a very large body of work. I imagine I will eventually have hundreds of completely different images, side by side in similar formats, depicting all the diverse activities that people are simultaneously doing in a given day. Or at least the activities that they claim they were doing.
OMC: How would you describe the show?
SWN: The show is really about taking a long look at how people are communicating with their networks of friends now, and also about how they may or may not have redefined what the word "friend" means.
Facebook and Twitter are great places for showoffs -- people who really want to impress you with the wonderful things they are doing, and their clever ways of saying so. But maybe that's just my friends.
OMC: How were you inspired to create these paintings?
SWN: Well, I've been studying the phenomenon of social media in my work, trying to help clients figure out how to use it as a marketing tool, and in the meantime, having a great time reuniting with old friends and so on. It's like there's a cocktail party perpetually going on in my laptop. So, naturally, after all this focus on Facebook and Twitter, it spilled over into my artwork. I think it started when I read a posting by my friend Tony, and thought, "Wow, that would make a great painting."
OMC: Do you dabble in other artistic outlets?
SWN: Outside of work, I just keep doing more art projects. It's either a form of madness, or a way to stave it off. Drawing, sewing, kids' projects, building, remodeling, cooking, baking cupcakes that look like penguins. I love making stuff with my hands.
OMC: Why do status updates make great painting subjects?
SWN: I used to struggle with topics for my paintings. I would agonize for months, because I have always gravitated to work that has a narrative element to it. Maybe it's my Southern storytelling background. But once I realized that the status updates were an almost endless supply of ideas, I found that I have more subjects than I can get to in a year.
Now I visit my Facebook and Twitter pages like a fisherman, and when I find one that I like, I copy and paste it into a separate document, print it, and clip out the line to live with for a while. Now my studio is wallpapered in weird comments like, "Daniella R. is riding the pale horse."
The lines are so concise, so expressive, and so completely different from one another. I also find that because these "status lines" are meant to be read casually and quickly, that they work really well as poetry when you isolate them and lavish lots of attention on them.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.