New faculty: Marianna Dixon Williams
New faculty Marianna Dixon Williams is a visual artist whose work spans a variety of media, including sound, video, computer science and fabrication.
Growing up in the South in a family full of artists, makers and engineers, Marianna Dixon Williams was always tinkering with some kind of art project. Add in the South’s rich storytelling tradition, and it’s no surprise that Williams grew up to be an artist who focuses on crafting immersive installations.
Williams is a visual artist whose work spans a variety of media, including sound, video, computer science and fabrication. Williams’ installations are large constructions visitors walk through: “You’re an active participant in the work,” they said.
“I learn a lot from my students.” [For them,] “teaching is an act of service and an act of constant investigation.”
Williams’ passion for immersive work was sparked by their 2013 Arctic Circle residency, which sent them sailing on a steel-hulled barquentine through Norway, Russia, and into international waters. During the residency, Williams used climate data, drone images and sound recordings as part of their art. Bringing these items home, Williams constructed handmade paper discs that played the indexed field recordings over time. As each disc was played, the recording of the environment eroded and developed, just as the environment north of everything is constantly changing. It was a way to acknowledge the memory of a site and to speak to our involvement in its future. The result was visual art that was both immersive and impactful.
While Williams’ career is rich with gallery shows and installations, they’re just as passionate about teaching as they are about creating. “The thing that gives my life the most meaning is helping someone else live their life and fulfill their goals,” they said. Williams discovered this love for teaching while working as a lecturer at the University of Delaware and as an assistant professor at Augusta University. Their current teaching practice includes covering topics from time-based and interactive media to electro-mechanical objects, environment design and contemporary art. Now they’re excited to bring that passion to Mount Holyoke.
“I learn a lot from my students,” they said, adding that for them, “teaching is an act of service and an act of constant investigation.”
And Mount Holyoke feels like the perfect place for Williams to be in community with other artists. “I have a huge amount of respect for the faculty and the work that is being produced here,” they said. But what’s most impressed Williams so far has been the rigor and enthusiasm with which Mount Holyoke students approach their art. “I have taught many different institutions, and I’ve been really lucky to work with a range of students. But I was drawn to Mount Holyoke because of the depth of the students and the care that they take for their communities.”