LaVon Williams

Sugar Legs

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

“This work is a tribute to a dancer named “Sugar Legs,” who danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Dancers at the Savoy were innovative and alive with a sexuality of movement that was cutting edge. Many new dances were created by scores of talented dancers at the Savoy. The ballroom was 10,000 square feet and a block long, and it attracted scores of the famous and talented. It was one of the first racially integrated public places in the country when it opened in 1926. My favorite time periods are the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. I love the clothing of that period. Learning to sew from my mother, my ability directs me to pay attention to these kinds of clothing 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.