Lafayette artist Francis X. Pavy arranges archetypal images of South Louisiana into iconic patters within his paintings, block prints, and sculptures.
Artist Francis X. Pavy arranges archetypal images of South Louisiana into patterns within his paintings, block prints, and sculptures. His colors and shapes walk the line between complementary and discordant, resulting in an unlikely mix of iconic yet contemporary Cajun imagery, all battling on his canvas for attention in the same way that common aspects of Cajun culture—food, music, and art—resist hierarchical alignment.
Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, Francis Pavy has a passionate love of home, of “God’s country,” the place most people seek yet rarely discover in their original backyard. When asked about travel or the possibility of living elsewhere, he shudders at the thought. Lafayette 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, color characterizes Pavy’s work, a focus he traces to his childhood. At age six, Pavy 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 Elmore Morgan as a small child,” Pavy says. “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 Southwest Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His artistic career began with glasswork, his primary focus until turning to painting in 1985. Although he rarely works in glass today, this influence is obvious in the hard edges and near luminous hues and shapes of his paintings, as though these works are the stained glass windows of Acadiana.
Pavy’s artwork has received international attention, especially in France, where he is honored with both books and awards based on his work. In the United States, his 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 artworks appear in numerous catalogues and written collections of Southern art. In 1989, Rolling Stone magazine dubbed him “the Picasso of Zydeco.”
Although represented by several galleries outside Louisiana, in his home state he retains a long relationship with the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, where his bicentennial-inspired collection of artwork hangs on view throughout 2012. The exhibition includes original paintings, as well as printmaking and neon, Pavy’s most recent passions. Always growing and experimenting in his art, Pavy notes, “I’m not complacent; in fact, I feel like I’m a ball of wax. I have to push myself so that I don’t get bored. It’s as though I’m battling some internal competition.”