Charleston, SC, September 09, 2011 --(PR.com
)-- For more than two years, Earl B. Lewis was an artist with writer’s block. An accomplished painter and award-winning illustrator of children’s books, Lewis was set on creating a series of new paintings that would have true relevance. After years of combing art galleries and scouring books for inspiration, he ultimately stumbled upon it during a mundane stop for coffee at a convenience store.
The result is “Lotto Icons,” a thought-provoking body of work that will be on exhibit at the Wells Gallery in Charleston, S.C., Oct. 7-22, 2011 from 5-8 p.m. The series of mixed media paintings were born from numerous trips Lewis made to a Wawa in New Jersey where he observed impoverished adults purchasing scratch-off lottery tickets, many times while their children looked on.
“I started noticing the people in there just buying these scratch-off tickets and scratching their lives away trying to get that winning ticket in a million-to-one shot, a million-to-one opportunity,” Lewis said. “A lot of times, they would have their children there and...I began wondering, ‘You know, you’re buying these tickets and it almost appears that you need to get something to eat.’”
Disturbed by this on many levels, Lewis, who is based in New Jersey but also has a studio in Charleston, conducted research and discovered a large number of people living below the poverty line spend a disproportionate amount on lottery tickets, particularly the scratch-off kind. In addition, he learned that desperation and a feeling of powerlessness motivate this spending. Ultimately, Lewis felt a need to take action because bearing the brunt of these sad facts are children, whose parents cling to the hope that their next ticket, despite the massive odds, will deliver them from poverty even as it exacerbates it.
Lewis’ artistic approach was to purchase scratch-off lottery tickets, which he did not scratch, and use them as the background for intricate portraits of some of the children he encountered. He symbolically covered each child’s portrait in a layer of gold leaf, which he then carefully scraped away – much like a lottery ticket – to reveal the iconic images of the children.
“I felt this was a statement I needed to make,” Lewis said. “These pieces are basically speaking of our culture, speaking of our society and how we spend so much time in that frivolous pursuit of getting rich quick. And all we need to do is realize that our children are our most precious commodity and if we just scratch them enough and scratch them deep enough, we will find that to be true.”
Lewis’ exhibit at Wells Gallery will coincide with the French Quarter Art Gallery Association Art Walk on Oct. 7 from 5-8 p.m. This free event will provide the public with an opportunity to meet the artist and hear him discuss his body of work. The exhibit will remain on display until Oct. 22. Partial proceeds will benefit the Community Center of St. Matthews, a local outreach that serves children and families in the Charleston area and seeks to end generational poverty by addressing illiteracy in youth.
A special preview of “Lotto Icons” will be held at Wells Gallery Oct. 6 from 5:30-7:30 for media and special guests, including children and families served by the Community Center of St. Matthews. The preview will offer attendees special access to the artist, as well as the first glimpse of the paintings. Earl will offer commemorative keepsakes to the first 25 people that attend the preview. There will be an opportunity to purchase signed copies of children’s books bearing Lewis’ award-winning illustrations. All events are free and open to the public.
About the artist
Earl Bradley Lewis was born Dec. 16, 1956 in Philadelphia, Pa. Lewis has illustrated more than 50 books for children, including Nikki Grimes' Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, which won the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner. Inspired by two artist uncles, as early as the third grade, Lewis displayed artistic promise. Beginning in the sixth grade, he attended the Saturday morning Temple University School of Art League and studied with Clarence Wood. Lewis attended the Temple University Tyler School of Art. There, he discovered his medium of preference was watercolor. During his four years at Temple, Lewis majored in Graphic Design and Illustration and Art Education. After graduating, he taught art in public schools for 12 years. Presently, Lewis teaches at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, continues to paint and illustrate and is a member of The Society of Illustrators in New York City.
About the gallery
Located at 125 Meeting St. next to the Gibbes Museum of Art in historic downtown Charleston, collectors can feel confident they will find both integrity and expertise at the Wells Gallery, where quality and value are paramount and a wide array of significant art is offered. Works including paintings, bronze sculptures and hand-blown glass are offered from national, international and emerging artists.
The Wells Gallery is open Mon.-Sat. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An additional gallery is located in The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. 843-576-1290.
Digital images of the paintings are available upon request.
For more information, contact Keli Tolley at 843-853-3233.