Whether working in watercolor,
charcoal or clay, Sue Bennett Williams (born 1947, New Jersey, USA) has a
meticulous commitment to the chosen medium, taking obvious pleasure in
mastering each process while also constantly pushing its boundaries into
unexpected territory. In turn she often pushes her students—whether at the
College of The Bahamas or at her own After School Music and Art Classes (ASMAC)
program—to do the same, encouraging up-and-coming generations of practicing
artists and art teachers to find value in creative experimentation and process.
Though born in the United States of America, Bennett-Williams has nonetheless always felt a bond with The Bahamas as her family often visited Abaco while on sailing trips. She deepened this bond whole working as an art teacher in the schools in the 1970s, and is now Bahamian.
Despite showing promise and drive in the field of teaching early on, Bennett-Williams nonetheless developed her love for art in college. She was significantly affected by her teacher and mentor Rueben Hale who—against the conservative institution’s rules—often invited his students to learn figure drawing through live nude models off campus of Palm Beach Community College.
For the artist, process remains a central motivating part of her practice. Such an approach instills in her work both an adventurous spirit and an insatiable curiosity that captivates viewers. In the midst of Bahamian neo-realist and neo-impressionist landscapes and figures of the 1970s, she experimented with abstract paintings, moving from oil to acrylic and finally to watercolor. With encouragement from June Knight and Brent Malone, the artist exhibited her watercolor paintings throughout the 1980s at their gallery on East Bay Street and also in a major 1991 exhibition Expressions of Spring to raise money for her year abroad to complete a Masters in Education at Florida State University.
Bennett-Williams set out to develop her skills in clay in the early 1990's. Encouraged by Denis Knight, who allowed her to use the facilities during his evening clay-making classes at Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, she developed a deep love for the process that continues today as the predominant medium in which she works.
In the 1970's, the opportunity arose to teach first grade and art at Wentworth Primary School in Nassau for a semester, and the artist began to seriously consider teaching as another path to developing her artistic practice. She completed her BFA in Art at Florida Atlantic University, ensuring she took all of her electives in education, and returned to Nassau in 1972 to teach art in schools like Highbury High (now R.M. Bailey) and C.C. Sweeting until 1988.
Since 1988, Bennett-Williams has been an art professor at the College of The Bahamas, teaching both applied arts and art education courses. Instrumental in developing and changing the first complete art program with Stan Burnside, she went on to revise their current program for their Bachelor in Fine Arts, crafting new art upper level art courses and rewriting existing ones. She also co-chaired the annual COB art exhibition Colors of Harmony and acted as a faculty advisor to the COB Transforming Spaces Exhibition before retiring her position in 2012.
Bennett-Williams continues to mold the minds of primary and secondary-school level up-and-coming artists though the After School Arts and Music Program (ASMAC) that she founded in 1993 with her husband Tom Williams. In 1998, she was awarded the Silver Jubilee Award by the Bahamian Government for service to the community through her afterschool classes.
Perhaps her most significant student is her own son, Jason Bennett, an accomplished abstract expressionist in his own right. The pair has exhibited together twice—Union in 1998 and Bond in 2005.
The artist’s work has been exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions in The Bahamas, and her work can be found in many private and public collections in The Bahamas.