When autumn arrives, you know the St. James Court Art Show is right around the corner. Held this year on Oct. 5-7, the 62-year-old sale, featuring nearly 700 artists, has become one of the most important events of its kind in the nation. New this year is an historical marker proclaiming the founding of the St. James Court Art Show and neighborhood in Old Louisville (it’s located near the fountain). The 2018 St. James Court Art Show poster artist is Kenneth “K.O.” Lewis. LEO talked with him about his art.
LEO: What type of artist are you?
K.O. Lewis: I’m a contemporary expressionist portrait artist. As technical as that sounds, I have a very simple goal to create art that conveys a feeling and emits an energy strong enough to capture the attention of the viewer. I create art that incorporates iconic figures that have influenced and shaped my way of thinking throughout my life. It is important for me to paint these influences because it is a constant reminder of my purpose to inspire others in a similar fashion like they’ve inspired me.
You label your style ‘contemporary expressionism.’ What do you mean by that?
I’ve always been told that art should do a variety of things. One of the many things that art is intended to do is reflect the times. Contemporary Expressionism is a way to coin the use of bold, vivid imagery along with text that conveys a literal message. The thing that I loved about the Expressionism period is the ability to convey feeling, meaning and understanding without rules to confine the extent of the creation. I’ve always struggled with self-expression but learned through art that limitations are only placed upon yourself if you allow them. This led me to use art to convey how I felt about the many things I’ve experienced throughout my life in a way to uplift and push through. For me, the art is extremely expressive because of the connection the art makes to moments and feelings throughout my life. The quotes are an opportunity to push through the circumstances and see the silver lining. The reason I describe the work as contemporary is due to the art not meeting the general expectations that you would see in an expressionist piece of art, which is typically abstract in nature. My art is intended to be recognizable as well as direct. I use quotes from the iconic figures used in the art to directly address the viewer and say, ‘This is what I mean.’
As a young artist, what were your influences?
As a young artist, I truly enjoyed learning about the masters of the Renaissance period and studying their ability to construct the human form. This interest led me to a more forgiving period of art such as Impressionism and Expressionism. I’ve always had an interest in drawing portraits but learned that I loved color just as much. Color became the influence for an extended period of time behind all of my works and still plays a pivotal role now. I loved experimenting with creating expressive canvases and painting quick portraits over top with loose expressive marks. These paintings were bold and striking and created an energy that I enjoyed.
What was the inspiration for the design of your St. James Court Art Show poster?
Growing up in Louisville, I had the opportunity to attend the St. James show a number of times and one constant image that said ‘St. James’ more than anything was the iconic fountain centered in St. James Court. I wanted to pay respect to the iconic imagery while using the expressive marks that make my art recognizable. I also wanted to focus on colors that were representative of the season the show takes place. Lastly, the lettering represents all the neighborhoods involved as well as the annual representation. With the lettering, numbering and orientation of the canvas, I wanted the piece to feel like a classic stamp.
Where can we buy the poster?
Posters will be available on St. James Court during show hours on Friday through Sunday. The first 100 copies are signed and numbered, so pick one up quickly.