Born in Cleveland, Matt Williams grew up in the suburbs of both Boston and Brussels which were, at the same time, surprisingly similar and wildly different. This paradox has informed his work from the beginning.
Working with both staged and candid photographs, Williams’ work is often specifically about death both literal and metaphorical, loss, and the difficulty of reconciling loss. It is about looking back to try and learn from the past while wondering about an unwritten future.
Williams received an MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2016. His work has been shown in galleries such as ClampArt in New York City and museums including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He teaches and exhibits worldwide while living in the Boston area. Most recently he has been at work on a new series of photographs loosely based on the history of the Aberjona River.
When was America Great? Nostalgia and The Fetishization of the American Dream
The work in my current project “Soft Proof” is my response to the rallying cry of the Trump campaign and the presidency of “Make America Great Again”. It has expanded into a search for evidence of the American Dream which his slogan attempts to celebrate but ultimately fetishizes.
I found myself asking, “When exactly was America great and who was America great for?”.
Questions like these can often be quickly answered through narrow narratives especially when driven by personal philosophies or political leanings. Narratives of convenience feel like more of the same kind of rhetoric that drives Make American Great Again mania.
Through the work I want to challenge assumptions, my own and others, about the post-World War 2 generation and the America they created and long for. I want to see if I can find the country and way of life that I grew up being told was a paragon of accomplishment and achievement to be embraced and unquestioned. I want to see if it was ever really there and if I could find the American Dream.
Among other things, I want the work to function as an acknowledgment and a critique of nostalgia. The ways we humans try and leave our marks on the world through communication, consumerism, and capitalism. And the way America leaves its mark on us. How a thing, a place, a person can be monumentally strong and terrifyingly fragile all at once. Explore the tension between those who believe in change and those that want them to stay the same as well as people who think the end is near and others who believe in a brighter future.
To view more of Matt Williams’s work please visit his website.