The Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology has acquired a collection of works by the late deaf artist Harry R. Williams. Williams died of AIDS in 1991, and his work has rarely been seen since. The collection of over 30 paintings and numerous sketches was donated to the center by Williams’ sister, Malinda Mangrum, and her family.
Born hearing, Williams became deaf at the age of 18 months and used drawing from an early age to communicate. He attended the California School for the Deaf at Riverside and Gallaudet College (now the University).
According to Deaf art site, “Looking at his works of art, one has the feeling of entering private property. Her paintings generally seem to reveal her innermost thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Williams illustrates the theory that art is a process of communication. Williams tells us something. The more the spectator looks at his paintings, the more he knows about him.
Williams was drawn to works from the Baroque and Surrealist periods, and his work reflects the attention to detail and psychological aspects of these two movements.
“This donation is a huge opportunity to reorient the Deaf community to an incredible artist who has painted the Deaf experience in a surreal way,” said Tabitha Jacques, director of the Dyer Arts Center. “The Dyer Arts Center is honored to be able to be the custodian of 30 works of art and many drawings by Harry R. Williams. It’s also a great opportunity for researchers to tour the materials and learn more about Harry’s life.
The Dyer Arts Center is home to one of the largest collections of works by deaf artists in the world. Although temporarily closed due to COVID-19 protocols, the center is expected to reopen in the fall. To view the centre’s digital exhibitions, go to Dyer Arts Center Virtual Exhibitions Site.