Artist Profile: Arthur J. Willams Jr.
As a counterfeiter of bills, Arthur J. Williams Jr. could turn his creations into real cash but during his last stint in prison, the artist whose crimes made national news had learned to create work that’s even more valuable. Williams still paints money but these days attaches the currency to canvas and sells pieces for $25,000 that hang in homes the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Floyd Mayweather.
“My life this past year has been so blessed,” says Williams. “For an artist, it’s the greatest thing, to see yourself hanging in someone’s home.”
Williams, for his part, says he grew up on the streets of Chicago, where to help his mom buy groceries he’d crack open parking meters. Eventually, he learned to replicate a 100-dollar-bill so accurately, the paper contained the security features such as the watermark and the ability to pass the UV light test. He and his wife would travel across the country, spending the bills in malls on items worth $60 in order to get the $40 in change.
“Eventually, we had so much stuff we were sick of it,” says Williams. “We started giving it away to charities that helped kids. We were like Robin Hood.”
Even so, Williams had two bouts in prison, the last one of seven years being the most impactful. That’s where he took a painting class offered by another inmate who complimented his work. Painting – along with writing and exercise – became part of his daily routine, and helped the months and years go by faster.
“I got lost in the canvas,” says Williams.
Williams was released but life wasn’t easy, holding down a series of jobs and fighting idea of returning to crime. Eventually, he was offered the opportunity to assist artists hired to paint murals on a building and then another house-panting gig with bosses that insisted on funding William’s own attempts at a career in painting. Soon, his work caught the eye of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who he eventually helped with fundraising for the children’s charity, After School All Stars.
“I talk to the kids about believing in yourself,” says Williams. “And the reason my art sells is that I believe in that mission.”
Arthur J. Wiliams Jr. will be exhibiting his work during Miami Art Week at The Setai Hotel on December 5 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. All proceeds will benefit After-School All-Stars South Florida.