[Baton, Rouge, LA ::: b. 1986, Baton Rouge, Louisiana]
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, BRANDON V. LEWIS is the product of a single mothers love and dedication and the beneficiary of the hard work and strong convictions of his grandparents. Lewis began drawing at the age of three, when he returned from school one evening, the teacher sent an assignment home which instructed his parent to draw a bumblebee and he was to color it. Not being gifted with the talent to draw his mother handed him the pencil and told him to ‘try’, and he did more than try, when his mother looked at the paper he had in fact drawn a bumblebee that looked better than one any adult in the house could fashion.
After the faithful bumblebee assignment Lewis’ grandmothers began to invest in his talent. He would be given drawing tablets, pencils and most importantly a wealth of motivation. It was his maternal grandmother, a devout woman of God who told him ‘ the lord has blessed you with a gift, and it will make room for you.’ As he traveled through the East Baton Rouge Parish School System he was admitted to the talented arts program and was introduced to phenomenal art teachers who introduced him to mediums he had never heard of. His high school art Mr. Bob White shed light on the style Lewis had created. He pointed out how even though he didn’t paint faces on any of his subjects, Lewis’ paintings still told very colorful and complex stories. Mr. White encouraged him to stick to this unique way of storytelling. While studying folk artist such as Clementine Hunter, Jacob Lawrence and Bill Hemmerling, Lewis began to realize that he had in fact been telling the stories of his grandparents and great grandparents with a paintbrush.
After High School Lewis studied history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Studying African American history on the College level allowed him to gain an even further understanding of the rich heritage that is the African American experience. Over the course of the past ten years Lewis has dedicated his work to the celebration of his people and their stories. When asked ‘ What inspires you?’ he says “ I was raised by a unit of strong and relentless black women and a phenomenal grandfather who served as my father, those individuals along with the elders I’ve encountered in the church and on porches in small country towns such as Ethel and Clinton, Louisiana are my inspiration. Women with large ankles and ‘settled bodies’, who took pride in their appearance and always walked unapologetically in their own truth, men of little words but possessed tremendous wisdom, those people are the reason I create. I am a custodian of their stories. Every time I pick a paintbrush it is like picking up a pen. I am simply re-telling their stories with some paint and a brush. Artwork outlives its creator, one hundred years from now when I am a mere memory, my story, my mothers, my grandparents and all the those who came before us, our stories will celebrate our history to a new age.”