Sept. 30 2015 12:19 AM

Kimberly Lavon overcomes tragedy to return to art

Looking back, 2012 was a bit of a scary year. There were hurricanes, mass shootings, the advent of Obamacare and its alleged “death panels” — and all the while the ominous end of days foretold by the ancient Mayans grew closer and closer. We can at least be thankful that the Mayans were wrong and the world didn’t end — except for local artist Kimberly Lavon, in a manner of speaking.

Lavon was having a great year. She was awarded a sizable grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing in the summer, which lead to a chain reaction of professional and artistic growth. But tragedy struck later in the year, when an electrical malfunction occurred near her workspace located in Old Town’s Devon Storage Facility. A fire erupted and burned several of the units, including Lavon’s studio.

“The fire was initially devastating because I was watching my life’s work go up in flames,” Lavon said. “Of all the things I thought to go wrong, I never thought that would be one of them.”

Arising from the ashes is Kimberly Lavon INK, a brand new gallery and art studio in East Lansing. The studio, situated above Conrad’s Diner, serves not only as a gallery to view Lavon’s work, but also provides an opportunity for guests to see the process of how she makes her work. Lavon’s deft mixture of styles runs the gamut from printmaking to graphic design.

The space is divided into two rooms. The first serves as a gallery, while the second houses the workspace where Lavon produces her art. One might wonder if a modest two room suite is enough to house a gallery and the all various tools used in printmaking, but Lavon states that the space is micro on purpose.

“I want to show people that you don’t need a cavernous area to have a completely legitimate workspace,” Lavon said.

It wasn’t exactly easy for Lavon to get from the incident of her former workspace to Kimberly Lavon INK. In fact, after the fire, Lavon swore off art. She stepped away from her work, confident that she’d never return to the realm of creativity. Her friends and colleagues weren’t convinced.

“Nobody believed me! People laughed in my face,” said Lavon. “I kept reiterating that I was seriously done. That I was never going to make art again.”

Unfortunately, it took yet another tragedy to pull Lavon back into the art world. She was inspired to make art once more after the passing of her grandfather. Lavon was close with her grandfather, seeing him as more of a father, and wanted to make something to commemorate the impact he made on her life. Lavon wasn’t satisfied with the piece, but everyone else’s reactions were just enough to get the ball rolling once more.

“People loved it, I hated it. I thought (my grandfather) wouldn’t be happy with the piece,” said Lavon. “The reaction from people made me feel positive, so it was a domino effect from there.”

Getting back to Lavon’s works, her printmaking specializes in human skeleton iconography. But the art is not about death and morbidity, but rather reducing the human to its foundation. It’s Lavon’s intent to make these figures without any identifiable features so that there can be no discrimination.

The shop will be open for this weekend’s First Sunday Gallery Walk. Guests can check out Lavon’s new workspace as well as take in her first exhibit in the gallery, “Vintage Pieces from Kimberly Lavon.” The exhibit comprises of a number of pieces from past collections that span all the types of screen printing and other mediums that Lavon practices.

With the opening of Kimberly Lavon INK Friday, one could argue that no other Lansing artist in recent memory has so greatly personified the Phoenix metaphor of death and rebirth from the ashes like Lavon does. But the artist herself would tell you it’s nothing so mystical. It was through persistence, she said, that she was able to acquire professional representation that has gotten her works into galleries all over the world.

“If you love something, do it and don’t stop,” Lavon said. “I’m am so grateful that I now get to share my love of printmaking with this city.”


Kimberly Lavon INK

210 Abbot Road, Suite 50, East Lansing 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Monday- Friday, 1-6 p.m. Saturday- Sunday (517) 862-6129 facebook.com/ KimberlyLavonArtist

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