Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Artist Profile: Jessie Lavon

It certainly is my pleasure to write about this wonderful artist, Jessie Lavon. She is a folk artist, a mother, a daughter, a friend and a kindred spirit. I was introduced to her by way of blogs and we have enjoyed a nice rapport. One of the things I value most about her is that she is just like her paintings. Once you see her work and read her blog you will instantly know what I mean! Her art is fashioned from her childhood and lifelong memories of living in the south, replete with visions of picking cotton, fortune tellers, shanty's, voodoo, Spanish moss and many curious and appealing oddities to a West Coast girl like me. When I asked her if I might interview her she replied " I would be happier than a tick on a dog to be interviewed by you, sweet pea". I have never met anyone that talks like that but I have always wanted to and now she is my new friend. I also love the name of her blog and it drew me in completely "Purple Cucumbers". Here is what her blog says:

A Southern Folk Artist: My art is in collections and Museums in the U.S.A, Canada and Europe. It has been written up in International Magazines like RAW VISION and SOUTHERN LADY as well as being shown at the Huntsville Museum along with the art of Grand Ma Moses and Norman Rockwell. I have shown at the Atlanta Folk Fest and at Kentuck with international artists like Lisa Cain, Woddy Long, Jimmy Lee Suddeth. On Sept 23, after the death of my beloved Mother who died in my arms, I said goodbye to a 30 year art career as a folk artist on the art circuit to sell and paint as an independent folk artist. So come and travel the road back to my childhood days where the late afternoon drifts into long shadows and where I paint the memories of my days gone by. My family canning, making moon shine, the chain gang, working in the fields.

Jessie has an AVM and I believe she has endured a lot with operations and medications. She so graciously answered my questions in her southern style.

Valgal: How did you find your style?
Jessie: I created my style with the help of my Mama and my children. I wanted to tell my childhood stories and as I worked on the style, Mama and the kids would suggest colors to use. I didn't create this style until after the coma/brain surgery.

VG: What is your creative process?
J: I surround myself with things of beauty, photos, incense, flowers, fudge, love truffles and find my quiet place and in my heart and mind I return back to the cotton fields. There I can hear the sounds, voices and smells of my childhood. The slamming of the back door, the sound of rain on the tin roof, Mama, Nanny and Aunt Bea's voices and the smell of the kitchen while we were canning etc.

VG: Ho do you market/promote yourself?
J: Since I retired from the art circuit I no longer market but I used to do a lot of networking with other artists, see what galleries they used and contacted them. I used to do at least 30 shows a year. Kentuck, folk fest, etc. and when I wasn't at shows I painted to keep a good supply for the next show. I keep my name out in the newspapers and keep in touch with my states art council who put me in shows, museums and galleries. All artists should contact there state arts council with their bio and portfolio.

VG: Did/Do you have an agent/rep?
J: My Mama was my agent. Now I just enjoy my art and friends.

VG: Do you ever have a creative slump?
J: So far no. As long as I have my memories of childhood I think I can keep it at bay. I thought of giving it up after Mama died but then I realised it was my connection to her and if I retired from the circuit then I COULD ENJOY IT MORE.

VG: What do you do for fun?
J: Garden, blog, work on my books, hunt for trash and treasure to make art, enjoy my children and talk/ visit with other artists.

VG: What is the best part of what you do?
J: Living my childhood dream from age 6 of being an artist and glad Mama lived long enough to see it happen.
VG: Do you have any advice for budding folk artists?
J: NEVER GIVE UP AND ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOURSELF FOR ART COMES FROM THE HEART. GET IN CONTACT WITH YOUR LOCAL STATES ART COUNCIL. Set aside time to paint every day, network with artists you feel comfortable with, if you get rejected move on to another gallery and STAY AWAY FROM VANITY GALLERIES THEY ARE A SCAM.
VG: Do you want to talk about your illness?
J: Yes darling, Brain AVM's are of special concern because of the damage they cause when they bleed. They are very rare and occur in less than 10% of the general population. Mine occurred while I was 4 months pregnant with my 10th child. I was in a coma for 6 weeks and had a 10 1/2 hour brain surgery. All my memories were lost except for the years from age 10-14, everything else I had to relearn except for my art. That's why my art is so important cause it is a way for me to go home again to a time I so loved.

Jessie Lavon is a rare gem from Alabama. If you want to join her in an old-fashioned porch party than pull up a chair and get prepared to be served delicious ice cold lemonade with berries, some truffles and watermelon and you will be glad you did! Jessie my friend, I'm so glad I found you, Thank You for this interview it was a privilege.

Please click on to Jessie's name to go to her blog.


Anonymous said...

Wow. That's a world a dog could pick up a tick in. I'd love to be HER dog! Bad Dog

Jill said...

Val - thank you for introducing us to this artist! What a find.

isay said...

Beautiful art! Wonderful interview VAl. She has become the latest inspiration in my garden of Artists......

Toni said...

Hi Val keep those artists profiles and interviews coming.I find them interesting. What a charm she is!

Lee said...

what a cool story and one of my, if not my absolute, favorite genre...great interview val, thanks for doing it :)

bluegrasshack said...

I am a smitten fan of Jessie Lavon! My first work of Jessie's was a Christmas piece that hung for several years at Graffiti Restaurant, a funky Italian spot on US 98 in Destin, FL. I stood it as long as I could until I finally bought the piece. I now have others of Jessie's amazing works. Thanks, Jessie! Betty in West Tennessee