They Use Phosphorous Bombs

December 2023
Written By: 
Grand Strand Magazine Staff
Photographs by: 
courtesy the Myrtle Beach Art Museum

George Widener, charcoal on paper, 2022-23

Internationally renowned self-taught artist – and veteran – George Widener (b. 1962, KY) is celebrated for his mixed media works on paper that are informed by his prodigious numerical calculations, particularly when it comes to time. As a high-functioning calendar savant, Widener’s bold and exploratory works often contain maps, puzzles, puns and palindromes. The series of loose sketches exhibited in George Widener | Things I Have Seen diverge from the artist’s typical creations and demonstrate the artist’s impressive range of skill and style. They were drawn in response to Widener’s recent travels and work in Ukraine. The collection will be exhibited October 1-December 31 at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum is Myrtle Beach.

Over the past year, Widener has been involved with several volunteer groups delivering humanitarian aid to Ukrainian civilians. Widener became concerned with the dire situation in Ukraine during the summer of 2022 after learning of the terrible atrocities committed there by the Russian army. He traveled to Poland four times to help run tons of supplies to vulnerable Ukrainians remaining in some of the hardest hit areas of the war-ridden country. Areas of Ukraine to which the artist ventured include Lviv, Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and Borodyanka, as well as the front line areas of the Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk Oblast regions. As a way of documenting his experience and reaction to the existential struggle taking place, the artist created this series of haunting charcoal drawings expressing the loss and destruction of the invaded sovereign nation.

Widener’s art has been exhibited internationally and will be featured this fall at Paris+ par Art Basel and at the Musée national Picasso-Paris (France). His work can be found in numerous collections, including the American Folk Art Museum, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland; Hamburger Bahnhof National Museum, Berlin, Germany; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and Treger Saint Silvestre Collection, São João da Madeira, Portugal. He is represented by Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York and Galerie Arthur Borgnis, France.