If you haven’t been down to the Cressman Center at 100 East Main St., get there soon. We swung by today noticed they’re still showing the amazing work of Lavon Williams.
These hand-carved pieces brim with life. Williams, a fifth-generation woodcarver, creates rent parties jammed with lively dancers, women in colorful, sexy garb, and revivals alive with the spirit. Each piece conveys a sense of story, perhaps none more clearly than “Luke and the Preacher,” a relief carving of a pair of men making their way down a moon-lit avenue, a church in the distance, and the city’s buildings bending to engulf them. Other times the story is just a suggestion, such as a carving of a girl in a golden-yellow dress, skipping rope.
Williams depictions are full of pent-up energy. He uses warm colors, as well as the tone of the wood, to highlight the sculptures. And he makes powerful use of exaggerated proportions — the woman mourner in “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” raises a gigantic hand to the heavens, large enough to shelter the mourners beneath.
Hands are often larger than faces, such as the hands of the bass player Mr. Johnson. And sometimes feet are gigantic, as in the woman dancing in The Gambling House. Faces are part suggestion and part detail, but the emotions on them are always plain, whether poignant, joyous or raucous.
“You want to try to be as expressive as possible and as explosive as possible,” Williams told Kentucky Educational Television for a story a few years ago. “You’re looking for a fantastic movement or a fantastic shape that comes in the piece.”
I first saw Williams’ work at the Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University. We acted like giddy kids when we ran into him in the museum parking lot. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take notes. He was really charming and down-to-earth. He’s a big guy. I didn’t know it at the time, but in basketball-mad Kentucky, he’s probably more famous for his role in the 1978 University of Kentucky national basketball championship.
Cressman Gallery Hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m . to 6 p.m; Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the first Friday of the month, 11:00 am-9:00 p.m.