John Mcwilliams
January 22 – March 5, 2016

Full moon hangs over the marsh. A strong wind from the southeast, clouds move across the moon’s face. Light is falling. Time has opened. Prophecies reside in everything. Windows to the future are everywhere.

John McWilliams’s work is inspired by life in the Lowcountry, where the issues of life and its transitions are poignantly felt within the landscape. The artist explores the organic shifts of both natural and imagined worlds. The repetition found in the iconic, straight lines of the wood is both graphic and expressive and reflects the cyclical nature of time and the reverberation found in life passages. This fundamental form of art-making has a timeless quality, as McWilliams notes, “At its best a woodcut is a distillation of an idea controlling the page that it sits on, an enigma.”



John McWilliams was born in 1941 and currently resides in McClellanville, SC. He received his BFA and MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and is Professor/Director Emeritus of Georgia State University Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design. McWilliams has received numerous awards, including the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in photography. McWilliams’s monograph Land of Deepest Shade was published by Aperture in 1989.



I live and maintain a studio in McClellanville, South Carolina. My work these days is based in drawing and relief printmaking, which I have been doing for more than twenty years. Woodcuts and wood engravings,  the primary means of printed pictorial information since the invention of the printing press, have held much  fascination for me. The woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer and the German expressionists, the illustrations of
Rockwell Kent, and the graphic novels of Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel have been an inspiration. Woodcuts and wood engravings, as they sit on the page, are a world unto themselves.
The carved and engraved line has great expressive potential, revealing much about the artist’s intent. The ability to distill meaningful shapes and forms from ideas is an act that surprises and brings discoveries. The process of developing an image into a woodcut or wood engraving gives structure to my life. The image grows through the initial drawings to the carving and then the print, in which the image, if it is good, takes on a life of its own and becomes an open question. It is such sweet irony that, although the act of creating gives my life structure, it nevertheless produces an enigma, a puzzle that others may interpret through their own lives. There are no easy answers. Such is life.


Swimming, we search for balance, keeping afloat, respecting the power water has over us. Once we feel the balance, we stay afloat and move swiftly through water, creative in our agility.
Having two sons, I hoped that they would find balance in their lives, after they weathered the trials of youth. How could I impart balance without acknowledging that the search has eluded me many times? Now I know
that balance is integral to a meaningful life.

All things strive to find balance.These are dangerous times to raise sons. Their choices and influences come from many sources, parental voices among them. What influence do we have? Are they born with their destinies already imprinted?
Sons & Father, a collection of prints, reflects my hopes and fears of being a father. My children have opened my eyes to a world of sorrow and beauty.

— John McWilliams

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is collaborating with Horse & Buggy Press in producing a limited edition book featuring the works in this series.  

Community Partners 2017