La Von Williams

Fat Girl

Lexington, KY
Carved poplar and pine, oil paint, stains

“There was a jazz musician from the 1930s and 1940s who called his upright bass “Fat Girl.” The story caught my imagination and so I carved it. My father and uncle played jazz and they had great stories about musicians and jazz. There were lots of storytellers in my childhood. My favorite time periods are the 1930s and 1940s, when people carried themselves in style, and their clothes reflected this. Shirts and collars were starched and ironed, and people took great care in their appearance. I learned to sew from my mother, and I used to make clothes. My ability to sew directs me to pay attention to these details in my carving. My brother introduced me to the basic principles of a traditional style of relief woodcarving, which has its origins in coastal South Carolina’s African Gullah/Geechie culture. I portray figures by removing minimal wood using chisels and a mallet. I use a variety of woods—mainly poplar and pine—much of it repurposed and found. People are the most interesting things on earth. Once you think you have them all figured out, they change and surprise you.” Born in Florida in 1957, LaVon Williams is a self-taught artist who grew up in Colorado. He played basketball for the University of Kentucky’s NCAA championship team in 1978, then went on to play professional basketball abroad before returning to Kentucky. His work has been published and is found in many collections, including the Kentucky Folk Art Museum. Although abstract and often larger than life, Williams’s subjects are extremely recognizable and engaged in life. They are dramatic, strong and graceful portrayals of African-American life.