Scott Williams - 1956-2024

Scott Wiliams sig
Detail of a Scott Williams mural in the Lower Haight, SF. Photos dated Feb. 1999, and the mural was painted over around 2012.

In the amazing book "Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo", Aaron Noble was tasked with writing a feature about "The Stencil Godfather of the Mission" Scott Williams. In Noble's words, two parts stand out: Scott's art employs "optically disorienting patterns and color combinations while maintaining an ambiguous authorial tone poised somewhere between pop and paranoia... and the world is not as it seems." (pp. 250-51). Ever since I saw Scott's work on Valencia St. in 1997, I have never seen the world the same way since. Many times, there is too much space and not enough negative space in the world. During Scott's long career, he made sure that the emptiness was as full as possible, and sometimes so much so that it was overwhelming.

Once I finally met Scott, I was all in for trying to take as many photographs as possible of his work, in hopes that putting them here on Stencil Archive would replace all the banalities that the world wide web had to offer. It also helped Scott get his art on the internet, because he never had much use or patience for computers. It was a long trip full of "pop and paranoia", with visits to Scott's apartment to go through his cut out piles, his art books, his sketch books, and even his apartment walls and surfaces.

Scott's health was never good, and as he got older, his health continued to fail. Though sad to hear from his friends that he had died this week, I am OK with the fact that his physical sufferings are at an end. What is hard to reconcile is that his mind, visions, and creations are now in the past tense of this world. There will be no more art from Scott in the future, which is difficult to accept. 

I have spent hours of my life looking at his work and enjoying it, and I knew better not to really ask him deep questions about it. As Aaron Noble wrote in "Mission Muralismo", Scott "deflects questions... with the most mundane comments imaginable." It always made me laugh, which may have been the point for much of his work. I won't put adjectives to his work either, because Scott would've also deflected them. 

Either way, he knew I was a fan. I showed up to the photo shoot visits with big eyes and eager cravings to see everything he had made. In a way it was a stencil master class of lectures with one of the greatest stencil artists alive.

And it is a different world now that Scott is gone. But his art is still here on the site and out in the world, which will always be a pleasure to experience over and over. May Scott's work run forever!

I haven't updated Scott's Stencil Archive yet, and have spent the weekend rescanning my 1990s film photographs of his work. This has become the next project for this 2024 website upgrade, so keep eyes out for a few new photos, some new old photos, and then a cleaned up archive. I also updated a few blog posts from years ago. Here is one that now reprints a 1994 article about Scott Williams. Here is another announcing Scott's 2005 Adaline Kent Award.