December 10, 2013

Art: Familiar spots make up Mrs. Rogers’ neighborhood

I’ve been told the favorite question Louisvillians ask fellow locals is, “Where did you go to high school?” Not me. After the cursory questions about job and family, I get down to the important stuff: “What neighborhood do you live in?” It doesn’t take too long before the conversation branches out to current favorite spots or places gone but not forgotten.

Artist Judy Rogers is having that same kind of chat through her paintings. Her current show, cleverly titled “Mr.(s) Rogers’ Neighborhood,” is her visual love letter to the city.

“I do love Louisville,” she says. “I’m a born and bred Louisvillian and have always loved the charm of the many neighborhoods and landmarks around town, so I decided to exhibit some of my favorites. However, this is just a fraction of the places I have in mind to paint — the choices are endless!”

Rogers has included some of the better-known touristy sites, such as the Belle of Louisville. But this is really a show for people who live or work in Louisville — it’s where the locals love to spend their time that tells the story of a city.

Rogers has spent a lot of her time on that long stretch of Bardstown Road that’s the nucleus of the Highlands. Her work could dot a map of “Keep Louisville Weird.” Thirsty? Drop in at Heine Brothers’ Coffee, billed as Louisville’s original coffee shop. Let Twig & Leaf or Spinelli’s Pizzeria take care of your munchies.

Most of the 30-plus paintings in the exhibition are small, just 8 inches by 8 inches. But there are handfuls that are larger, like her interpretation of The Leatherhead. A staple of the Highlands for more than 30 years, Rogers prominently features the storefront but lets our eyes wander over to a street drummer on the corner under the Bonnycastle cross sign. Another long-term resident in the area, the Guitar Emporium, is painted on a large-scale as well.

Rogers has also included places that are not just in Louisville but have a local following, such as Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and White Castle. I know a former Louisvillian who, when he returns for a visit, heads straight to the sole remaining Ollie’s Trolley in Old Louisville.

NuLu, another hipster neighborhood, is represented with a painting featuring Please & Thank You and WHY Lou Two. So is Germantown, with Zanzabar.

“As much as I love painting local streetscapes,” Rogers says, “I also enjoy the reaction I get from people who have come across a painting of their favorite spot. It becomes personal to them, and it’s very satisfying to hear why they have a sentimental connection to a particular place. Some of these conversations become very lengthy! I do love Louisville, and I feel extremely fortunate that the things I enjoy painting most connect me with so many other Louisvillians.”