Who is ANNA: Anna Williams

"I know that a lot of artists don’t necessarily want to discuss [feminism] because it can make you feel vulnerable, and it can also sometimes make you feel like you’re almost being pigeonholed as a 'feminist artist,' but I just think there’s so many things that are important to discuss that it’s kind of worth it to put the conversation into my work."

Our new interview series, Who is ANNA, is all about the amazing Annas kicking ass in New York City. Anna Williams is an artist well-known for her thought-provoking and vibrant street art, murals, and collages. We sat down with her to talk all about her artistic influences, including her city, feminism, and the Berlin Wall.

What is it like for you as an artist in New York?
I don’t think there’s any place like New York, and I think that it’s an epicenter of art. Recently, I went travelling and the first thing I noticed was this lack of an art culture and, more importantly, an up-and-coming art culture. I think that’s been one of my favorite things about living in New York and really being able to make your own future… because I feel like a lot of people get intimidated by the art world. They see museums and incredible auction prices. It’s very intimidating, but at the same time there’s such a need for art and design, and there’s so many different avenues to do that that. I love New York, which is very obvious. I guess everyone does, but it has a special place in my heart. I don’t think I’m ever gonna move.

How does feminism influence your work?
I think it’s hugely influential. One of the differences between the idea of communication design/illustration and fine art is that, I think, fine art can definitely communicate a specific message, but I use illustration and known imagery to communicate the message of feminism. I think there’s a lot of work to be done in the world to say the least…I try to work in a lot of feminist imagery and start a discussion about it. I think a lot of people could prefer not to talk about it and just take it for what it is and take our current situation for what it is. [To me] it’s just really important to not be an artist who happens to be a woman but talk about my womanhood in my art. I know that a lot of artists don’t necessarily want to discuss that because it can make you feel vulnerable, and it can also sometimes make you feel like you’re almost being pigeonholed as a “feminist artist,” but I just think there’s so many things that are important to discuss that it’s kind of worth it to put the conversation into my work.

What’s your absolute favorite famous mural?
I don’t know the name of the artist; however, it’s very famous. It’s on the remaining piece of the Berlin wall, and it’s Gorbachev kissing Reagan. Not only is it just aesthetically really beautiful and powerful, but almost every single year someone defaces it, and every single year, it’s painted over, and I just love that as part of the evolution and the story [of the mural]. … When I was still wheatpasting, which is putting up posters, they’d get torn down. I’d be putting my stuff over other pieces, and the textures of that really literally tell the story of the passage of time and also people’s relationship to the society where it was created and who created it.

If you could paint anywhere, where would that be?
Oh, good question. It would be in New York. I would love to have an entire subway station and paint the interior of that because I think the subway is such a disaster. The MTA Arts & Design does do a pretty good job and has done some really cool mosaics. I think I would like to do just a massive, massive mural throughout the entire station and integrate parts of the city. Also, from a logistics standpoint, I think the signage in subways is horrible, especially for people who don’t speak English, or it’s their first time in New York [and] they have no idea what’s going on. It would be really cool to try to integrate a way to make it easier to navigate as well as being beautiful.