Local artist Luvon Sheppard’s exhibit opened Tuesday evening in Wilson Commons’ Hartnett Gallery, continuing Black History Month events. The exhibit, entitled “Retrospective” is a collection of his work spanning almost three decades.
Although this is the second time Sheppard’s work has been exhibited, he expressed excitement in his return appearance. “I’ve always wanted to have my own individual show here. I’m very fortunate and thrilled to have a show.”
His pieces have been showcases at galleries across the country, including permanent collections everywhere from Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery to Korea’s University of Seoul Museum.
Sheppard is a Rochester native, and a few pieces of his work in the gallery were familiar Rochester sights. “Sheppard has strong roots in the community. He is truly a Rochester artist,” the Hartnett’s graduate intern Lucy Curzon said.
Sheppard’s work contains a wide variety of media and influences. Strongest among them were religious themes, in addition to African-inspired and local pieces that reflect his life.
One specific piece, a watercolor entitled “Going Up North,” depicts a family with an angel in the background and a Bible passage imprinted in the foreground. When asked about the piece, he took a Bible from his pocket and quoted a psalm.
He explained, however, that he was trying to show the painting’s religious significance and added, “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk around with a Bible all the time.”
Sheppard then explained the religious themes, particularly the Bible passages in his works reflected in his life. “When I look at nature, I see these words. I see where the spirit of God has been,” he said.
Sheppard has been described by colleagues and friends as inspirational, a title which, while taking a long time for him to understand, he finally accepted. “Others saw something in me I had yet to see in myself,” he said. “But I came face to face with the truth. I am a spiritual person.”
Another important theme in his life is the people surrounding him such as his daughters, whom he portrays in many of his paintings. “You look at my work, you see people and personalities. They reflect my life. My life experiences,” he said.
The exhibit highlighted Sheppard’s wide range of subjects used, with pieces ranging from stark charcoal figures to abstract watercolors, even still life and realistic paintings.
Sheppard noted, “[Art] can be very abstract and it can be very real.”One piece, which shows a street scene, featured a reflection of the people in one store window and a religious scene depicted in the opposite window. Sheppard explained at that point his daughter was undergoing a lung transplant. “Sometimes you just walk up and down the street praying,” he said.
He then described his origins in art and his technique, beginning with his father drawing a simple face. “When he drew that face, that was it for me.”
Students had positive comments on Sheppard’s exhibit. “It was really interesting to hear about the things he’s been through,” senior Dave Stewart said. “It gives all the works some real depth.”
Sophomore Meghan Powers, an employee at the Hartnett Gallery, was also impressed. “Compared to the other [exhibits] I like this one a lot. It’s very colorful, which is good,” she said.
Students at the Rochester Institute of Technology were also in attendance and had positive comments on their professor’s exhibit.
“It was really neat to see how he uses the figure,” RIT senior Jennifer Peachey said. “I can take these things and apply them to my own work.”He noted the amount of art students who had come to support him, and commented on the future for up and coming artists.
“I know there are future artists here and I know they are going to do outstanding things, I can see that,” he said. “We’re a community. This is important to us because of what it is we do.”
Linden can be reached at email@example.com.