Fabian Williams Captures Atlanta’s Friction and Soul

There’s something bubbling in Atlanta.

There’s something bubbling in Atlanta. The music scene is on fire, it seems like more films are being made there than in Hollywood, and there’s a burgeoning arts scene tied into everything. The reason behind that, says artist Fabian Williams, is that Atlanta’s artist community is supportive and open. “Artists definitely cross-pollinate,” says Williams on a phone call from the studio in the basement of his home. “The graffiti muralists mess with the tattoo artists; the tattoo artists mess with the fine artists; the fine artists mess with the muralists; the photographers get down with everybody. There’re really no restrictions. I think that’s what you need for a healthy, robust art community.

Williams has seen the city grow up since he moved back from a brief period in Los Angeles, where he honed many of the skills he employs today as an artist. “I went out to Los Angeles because I got hired to be an illustrator, and then I just got lonely and came back to Atlanta,” he says with a laugh. “I live in Decatur. It’s a ‘gray neighborhood,’ which means it’s black and white. It’s convenient, because I’m 20 minutes from anywhere.”

Though Williams’ newer work is based in realism—he describes his upcoming exhibition at the Rialto, Rockingwell, as a “remix of Norman Rockwell”—his billboard for the GOOD Cities Project harkens back to a series he developed called “Contraptions.” The works in the series, of which there are dozens, play out like a narrative comic strip in the style of artist Rube Goldberg’s warped machine illustrations—but with Williams’ own political twists. “The ‘Contraptions’ are a combination of several different things: Rube Goldberg cartoons mixed in with a little bit of Norman Rockwell and Looney Tunes,” Williams explains. “At the same time, I’m dealing with some serious subject matter, because that’s just who I am. I’m big on issues of race, because my friends are black, so we talk. The things I tend to question are social engineering. Rube Goldberg machines are perfect schematics for that type of thing: the rolling pin rolls down the ramp of poverty and hits the boot of oppression and it kicks the father out of the home. It became a perfect way to illustrate social schemes.”

For the GOOD Cities Project billboard, Williams has created an evolutionary view of what it means to become a celebrity in Atlanta. At the crux of it all, says Williams, is good old-fashioned elbow grease. In Atlanta, he sees this every day. “Basically, the concept of the billboard shows how hard work pays off,” Williams says. “I had friends, when I first got to Atlanta, doing local music or artwork, and then they just transitioned into superstardom. DJ Drama: I used to do mixtape cover artwork for him, and I’ve seen him go from mixtapes to touring around the world with T.I., Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne. I’ve seen hard work pay off. If you stay on it, it’ll happen for you. The billboard is a testament to puttin’ in work.”

Williams himself sometimes goes by the pseudonym “Occasional Superstar.” It started as a joke he put on a business card, but people started to ask about it, and the moniker stuck. “Everybody stumbles upon their moment and they do that shit perfect,” says Williams. “That’s what an ‘occasional superstar’ is: some days you wake up a Superman; most other days Clark Kent.”

Lately Williams has been feeling more Superman than Clark Kent—but he still needs to remain industrious to make it. “I’m trained as an illustrator, so a lot of my style comes from trying to pay the bills,” he says. “If I want to get hired doing graphic work, then I have to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator. If I want to do more illustrative work for editorial, I have to learn how to use oils and acrylics and airbrush. Trying to survive, you pick up skills to be available for those jobs.”

But what inspires him most is getting out into the streets of ATL, seeing the various styles of creativity, and watching as those around him work their tails off to achieve their dreams. “Atlanta has soul,” he says. “These communities are rubbing against each other and the friction is creating energy. I feel like that’s why a lot of artists are here. It’s really turning up right now. And the capital of hip-hop right now is the South. I’m sorry, New York, but it is.”

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less