Not a commie
There was a particular art exhibit at last year’s state fair that drew an enormous crowd. Elderly people stood around with corn dogs and disapproving looks just staring and shaking their heads especially at this one piece of art. It was an oil painting of eight kids wearing menacing looks and holding semi-automatic rifles. Set against a red background on a sixty-nine-by-ninety-one-inch canvas, the work of art was stunning, intriguing, edgy and impossible to take your eyes off of. Its painter is Zachary Williams, a Sacramento resident and visual provocateur.
Your work at the state fair was the craziest painting I’ve ever seen.Well, thank you.
I was with my mom and it tripped her out.Was that a good thing?
Yeah, it was good. People were just standing there, like, “What the fuck?” Did you go look at people looking at your work?Oh my God. You know how much hate mail I got from that? Good lord. I was definitely thinking twice afterward.
Really?My intention wasn’t to really stir things up that much, but just to raise awareness. I did go on a couple Saturdays and try to answer some questions if anybody had them, and it just turned into a giant fireball. Everybody was just waiting in line to attack me.
So what did people say?Um, one lady said I was a completely disturbed human being and all my paintings should be burned; I was told I was anti-American and I should go back to the “commie country.”
I get a lot of that, too. So what did you take away from that experience?I’m just trying to find a more universal way of reaching my audience so I don’t make them as angry as I did in the past. Try to find some sort of common ground to illustrate my point.
The kids with guns was great, and out of control. What were you thinking before you painted that?I wanted something confrontational but not too overbearing. I think I overdid that part. I wanted to show how we haven’t really come too far in terms of a society. We have the “do as we say, not as we do” kind of mentality. That has been passed down to generations, and it’s unfortunate. So I thought with these kids I might be able to play on the emotional part and call attention to some adult behaviors. I think a few got it.
You’re doing your job when people respond that drastically.It’s true. I took that more to heart than anything else.
The size of that painting was also startling.I would have gone bigger but I can’t fit anything into the house.
Tell me about “The Church of Private Enterprise” painting.I kind of wanted to call attention to religion and politics, and how that’s been kind of misconstrued for personal greed, and how that’s kind of at war with nature and everything that religion stemmed from.
Heavy political stuff. Is that kind of what you think about all the time?It’s kind of hard not to. Don’t get me wrong, I like ponies and rainbows like everybody else—
Yes, like we all do.Yeah, but I think in these times it’s crucial to leave behind a visual reference to what is going on.
How is it, being an artist in Sacramento?It depends on what you’re looking for. I’ve found this place to be awesome; it’s a beautiful city, it’s kind of awakening from its slumber now, it’s a great place to paint, it’s very diverse. … It’s a great stepping stone for anybody who’s interested in pursuing this career. Like anything else, you’re going to have to take bigger leaps, but I have nothing too negative to say about this place.