Billy Dee Williams

Billy Dee Williams

Billy Dee Williams grew up in the Harlem section of New York City in a family that nurtured artistic expression in all forms. At his mother’s urging, at the young age of seven, Billy Dee made his acting debut on Broadway in the FIREBRAND OF FLORENCE, starring Lotte Lenya. Billy attended public school including the High School of Music and Art. He was awarded the prestigious Hallgarten Award Scholarship to attend the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design. In order to earn money to buy paint and canvas Billy, remembering his positive stage experience as a youngster, returned to acting, contrary to the strong protests of his art professors. Billy quickly distinguished himself in the performing arts and despite the often-arduous schedules managed to keep his love of painting an integral part of his life.

Billy has acted in over 100 films, and is immediately recognized for his significant role as the dashingly handsome Lando Calrission in the Star Wars epics THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI. Billy has received critical acclaim for his portrayal as the elegant romantic lead in both LADY SINGS THE BLUES and MAHOGANY, with Diana Ross. He has played pivotal roles in NIGHTHAWKS, BATMAN and the historically based story BINGO LONG TRAVELING ALL-STARS & MOTOR KINGS.

Billy, distinguished by his natural charismatic and urbane charm, became the perfect choice to be the spokesperson for Colt 45’s satirically entertaining commercials, making Billy known as the smooth “Colt 45 Guy”, and for Avon to develop a new fragrance in his name, UNDENIABLE by Billy Dee Williams. Billy is a favorite return guest on comedic episodes on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

For Billy, painting has been a life-long pursuit. His paintings of family and friends capture the essence of their personalities and character. While working on the Broadway stage, he reconnected with the art environment of New York, which prompted him to embark upon a series of remarkable new paintings. Music, philosophy, psychological motif, love, interior landscape and history all became subjects to explore. In a burst of artistic energy Billy painted 120 works in two years. Billy’s paintings generally are acrylic on canvas, applied with brush and airbrush; collage elements often appear. Billy, always willing to challenge himself, has also created three-dimensional canvasses incorporating ceramic, Lucite, and neon light.

Billy’s paintings are emotive and strong. He is a visual storyteller where the rhythmic composition, perspective and bold colors carry the message. His subject matter comes from life, addressing universal themes that he presents through his unique expressionistic figurative style as an abstraction of reality.

Billy has had many national and international exhibitions garnering recognition for his exceptional paintings. His paintings are included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Gallery, Washington DC, the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, New York, African American Museum, New Orleans, US Olympic Committee, and the Museum of Jazz, Kansas City. Private collectors include such notable individuals as General Alexander Haig, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, saxophonist Kenny G. The Nissan Motor Corporation and Sears Corporation also include Billy’s paintings in their collections.

According to Billy, “DO BE OP MOP BE BOP”, a jazz phrase taken directly from one of his paintings, represents “PRAISE FOR EMOTIONAL AND INTELLECTUAL JOURNEYS INTO NEW FRONTIERS.” Billy, relentlessly continues to take those journeys himself, and in so doing inspires us all.

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