From his playful graphic designs to his paintings of Black icons and hand painted clothing, Javarri Lewis is easily at the top of our lists of inspiring Ohioans. Just over the past year alone, I have seen his pieces become bolder with stronger statements and aesthetics. If there’s any painter around here that has “it”, it’s definitely Javarri.
What I truly appreciate about Javarri is his love for Ohio, when I asked him where he was from he made it loud and clear, “CINCINNATI, OHIO!” and that says a lot. He takes pride in everything from the city that he comes from to the land that his people came from and especially his work.
I was fortunate enough to speak with 23 year old Javarri Lewis recently, read our Q&A below to see what he had to say about his craft, influences, goals, future plans, and Ohio’s growing culture.
VANICE ALEXANDER: Can you tell Ohio Streets readers who you are?
JAVARRI LEWIS: My name is Javarri Lewis and I am a African American self-taught artist. I am also a creative director of Cintagious, which is a new media company created by Jasmine Ford based in Cincinnati. I like to think of myself as a creator, developer, and a entrepreneur. I also just recently graduated from the Unvieristy of Cincinnati with a degree in Business Management Technology.
Congratulations man, that’s so awesome! So how did you get interested in art?
I got interested in art back in grade school. I always liked going to art class becuase we got to create different projects every class and I would go out of my way to try to perfect whatever project we were working on. My teacher suggested that I join the art club at school, so I did and I began drawing and painting more frequently. When I got to high school I lost interest in drawing for some reason.
I think it’s great that you’ve been able to reconnect with your love for drawing after losing interests for a while. What inspires your work, especially your most recent paintings? I am a huge fan of those.
The world inspires everything that I create. My surroundings inspire me. Black people inspire me.
There is a lot of history here in Cincinnati regarding slavery, the undergorund railroad, and the escape routes slaves had to take to cross the Ohio river. Many don’t know about some of these events because they don’t teach you about it in the schools in cincinnati
So some of my work may reflect that in some aspects. My most recent work has shown images of black people painted in Black paint.
I want to create all type of things, I’m always looking to explore different mediums, whether it’s painting with spray paint, photography, or film and editing. I like to work with everything that gives me inspiration to create.
A brand from Cincinnati that inspires me is Ohio Against The World(OATW). That brand was founded here by black people, so to me anything is possible.
Who are the three individuals that you most recently painted portraits of and what inspired you to choose these people?
To Pimp a Butterfly has been in my rotation heavy. This album was the inspiration for two of my pieces, the orange piece I did of Kendrick and the yellow piece that I did of the woman. I like all colors, but if I had to pick a color it would be RED because my grandmothers favorite color was red.
My recent work is usually always my favorite work. So all of the 36×36 paintings that I have done lately have been my favorite because I just recently decided to paint on big canvases. I like painting people because you can immediately relate to the feeling you get when you look at the subjects demeanor.
You’re also into hand painting clothes and sneakers?
I love custom pieces so I began to design some T-shirts and hats, but I only had a few pieces. I then began to paint on jackets and shoes and after I was done, I would share the images online and a few people hit me up for their own custom items.
What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
One of my ultimate goals as a artist is to travel the state and world with my art and share it with other people, and to experience others art and creativity as well along the way. I also want to expand and experiment with many different mediums and evolve creatively.
What else can we expect from you this year?
I will be a featured artist in The Black Hole Exhibition in Columbus, Ohio on June 5th 2015 at 8 PM. I will have a few of my peices on display so you all can come check me out. Also, Cintagious has some content in the works here in Cincinnati so be on the lookout for that really soon.
That’s tight Javarri, the people behind both of those movements are doing great things for Ohio right now. How do you feel about Ohio’s culture overall?
I love Ohio and what is going on right now. We are really building a scene here that is unique to us and only us. We have a lot of room to grow and a lot of talented poeple that live here and that are from here! We have an oppurtunity to make a name for ourselves and the time is now that we come together and take over!