“Francis X. Pavy: A Louisiana bicentennial exhibition,” Gambit

by Wendy Rodrigue

“It seems to me it would be a great life to just wander about and paint birds.” -Pavy

Birds of North America, 2012. Block print and oil on canvas. 30 x 48 inches

Birds of North America, 2012. Block print and oil on canvas. 30 x 48 inches


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.”

Wendy Rodrigue