Death of an artist


You may not know Joe Williams by name, but you may be familiar with some of his work.


Thousands of people who traveled through the Mall of America or state fairs in the Upper Midwest probably have a caricature drawn by Joe Williams stashed somewhere in their house. He was profiled by MPR’s Nikki Tundel more than six years ago.

kidsaroundartist_large.jpg Williams was found dead last week by an artist colleague. They were attending the Central States Fair in Rapid City, South Dakota. Williams was a diabetic, apparently hadn’t taken his insulin, and didn’t tell anyone, his friend told me Sunday afternoon. “He was a prideful individual,” he said.

Now, the search is on for any family members he may have. “He didn’t talk about them much and with a name like Williams, it’s pretty hard to track anyone down,” he said. He had no address book nor cellphone with his personal effects when he was found. The coroner in South Dakota is planning to cremate his remains on Monday if family can’t be located.

“I just like that atmosphere, that circus environment,” Williams told Tundel in 2003. “I always wanted to run away to the circus when I was a kid, so here I am.” He had a degree in fine arts, but found drawings were his way of talking about himself and others.

“Humor is a powerful element. It just kind of seeps in. It’s not forceful. But if people are laughing about something, they accept it more. Caricature art is like therapy,” he said.

(h/t: Kelly Hungaski)

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