“It seems to me it would be a great life to just wander about and paint birds.” -Pavy
Firmly rooted in the culture of south Louisiana, Lafayette artist Francis X. Pavy (b. 1954) arranges archetypal images into patterns within his paintings, block prints and sculptures. His colors and shapes walk the line between complementary and discordant, resulting in a variety of iconic yet contemporary Cajun imagery, all battling on his canvas for attention, in the same way daily aspects of Cajun culture - food, music, and art — resist hierarchical alignment.
Born and raised in Lafayette, Francis Pavy enjoys a passionate love of home, of ‘God’s Country,’ the place most people seek in life yet rarely discover in their own backyard. When asked about travel or the possibility of living elsewhere, he near stutters at the thought. Lafayette, Louisiana is Pavy’s inspiration. The place exists within shapes on his canvas, because the culture thrives in his soul.
Pavy paints with a sort of stream of consciousness, shifting in one painting from guitars to girls to dice to pianos to cats to crosses to bottles and to buildings, while making the same shifts in color — from ochre to peach to umber to azure and so forth.
More than any other quality, it is color, an interest he traces to his childhood, which characterizes his artwork. At age six, young Francis studied art in Lafayette’s Girard Park with famed Louisiana painter Elemore Morgan, Jr.
“My role as a colorist is probably due to working with Elemore Morgan as a small child. When I went to college, I met him again, and he remembered and still had some of my drawings. As adults we became friends, colleagues.”
In 1976 Pavy graduated with a Fine Arts degree in sculpture from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This interest developed into glasswork, his main focus until turning to painting in 1985. Although he rarely works in glass today, this influence resonates within his hard edges and near luminous hues and shapes, as though his paintings are the stained glass windows of Acadiana.
Pavy’s paintings hang in the collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Morris Museum of Art. His artwork appears in numerous catalogues and written collections of Southern Art. In 1989 Rolling Stone dubbed him “the Picasso of Zydeco.”
In New Orleans Pavy retains a long relationship with the Arthur Roger Gallery, where his bicentennial-inspired artworks hang on view this month. The exhibition centers on Mississippi River references and includes original paintings combined with Pavy’s recent passion, printmaking. Never complacent, the artist confronts and dissects his iconography, process and philosophy:
As humans, “we rise and fall one by one, but the river keeps flowing no matter what.”
—For more by Francis X. Pavy visit his website
—The exhibition Francis X. Pavy: 200 - Art Inspired by 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood opens Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 with an artist’s reception from 6:00 — 8:00 p.m., Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia Street, New Orleans 504-522-1999. Continues through March 31st
—A similar version of this essay appears on the website KnowLA: the Digital Encyclopedia of Louisiana History and Culture and within the upcoming book A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana, a project edited by Michael Sartisky, Ph.D., President/Executive Director of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and J. Richard Gruber, Ph.D., Founding Director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, scheduled for publication in September 2012 in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Louisiana’s statehood
—For more by Wendy Rodrigue visit ‘Musings of an Artist’s Wife’ or find her on facebook