To Tarry in Prayer/To Terri in Prayer interrogates the act of mothering, daughterhood, the disruption of time, inheritance, and loss. In this work, Williams draws on the biblical Book of Ruth to explore the mother-daughter relationship. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi, a widowed mother, and Ruth, her widowed daughter-in-law, migrate back to Naomi’s birthplace after both of their husbands die. While traveling, Naomi begins to exhibit childlike need and Ruth essentially takes over, blurring the roles and hierarchy of motherhood, thus disrupting traditional notions of lineage, bestowed inheritance and shifting names or identities.
While these works reference the story of Naomi and Ruth, metaphysical red figures occupy the landscape of their narrative. These bodies aren’t meant to portray specific individuals, rather, they speak to a collective experience—an experience of womanhood and of Blackness. Rather than constructing Blackness through “black” skin, Williams uses red as a disruption that allows the figures to be read beyond the biases and assumptions placed on black bodies. The color red becomes a strategic apparatus, a marker of urgent exhaustion. Similar to an ambulance’s pulsing red light, the bodies command the viewers’ gaze. The bodies’ urgent state, its need, and its humanity, all become most legible through the figures’ vibrant skin. In their state of red, figures embrace, wrestle and anchor themselves to the ground.
As Williams has noted: The red bodies roam surreal, fragmented landscapes extrapolated from memories of my past childhood homes. Grief, loss, exhaustion, states of prayer and rest are imagined as physical spaces where bodies intermix with terrains and horizons. These red forms contain emotional landscapes, but are also physically planted and grounded into the topography. The figures straddle the line between inside and outside. In this ambiguity, the delineation of space collapses both pictorially and conceptually—Where is real? The emotional landscape becomes a place that the body both carries and roams. The bodies bend. They bend to pause, bend to pick up a child, bend in tiredness, bend in weighted burden, bend in prayer, bend in lovemaking, bend into the beyond.
To Tarry in Prayer/To Terri in Prayer is an incessant ode. An extended moan that took on physical attributes. An extended moan that became pictorial and, like an echo, moans back.