I Was Here - Lexington is an artistic collaboration between poet Nikky Finney, artist Marjorie Guyon and photographer Patrick J. Mitchell. The project embodies the precious work of looking at, looking behind and looking ahead to honor the past and plant a vision in the heart of America. The mission of this project is to bring healing to a divided Country. The cure is to be applied where the wound occurred.
Through a series of ‘On The Street Museums ‘ in various locations throughout the country, I Was Here will bring art into the public square, under-served neighborhoods, schools, libraries and community centers to instill a deeper understanding of our common humanity. We see this project as an antibiotic for wounds in America that are difficult to isolate. We seek to stimulate a conversation on who we were, who we are and a re-envisioning of who we could be.
The first iteration of this project is composed of twenty-one Ancestor Spirit Portraits and centers on the public square, the physical heart of Lexington, Kentucky—Cheapside—which was one of the largest slave auction sites in the United States, but also references the Bight of Benin, the Igbo Landing on St. Simon’s Island Georgia, the Broeck Race Course in Savannah, where the largest two-day sale of enslaved persons occurred, as well as other physical locations central to the long lucrative life of the transatlantic Middle Passage slave trade. Central to the belief of the project is that the spirit of the past can be redeemed and our future, as humanity, more richly nurtured.
This artistic collaboration would not have been possible without support from Wells Fargo, VisitLex, Kentucky Arts Council, Paul Holbrook, The King Library Press at The University of Kentucky, John Hays and Patrick Estill @ JacksonKelly, John Morris, Barry Darnell Burton, Blue Grass Community Foundation, Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund at the BGCF, Reimagine Cheapside, Bob Estes, Linda F. Vogel Kaplan, The Wills Gallery, Jeff Boggs and The Carnegie Center for Literacy.
View full project details at I Was Here
LexPark - Victorian Square Garage
I Was Here - Lexington, KY Fall 2018
Keeneland Foundation (2006)
Seven original pieces commissioned to celebrate the beauty and history of Keeneland Racecourse. Limited edition prints created to benefit the Keeneland Foundation.
Breeder's Cup Festival (October 2015)
Poem by Nick Stump, Artwork by Marjorie Guyon, Projections by Tom Willis
Projected in Downtown Lexington during the 2016 Breeder's Cup Festival
The project, sponsored by the Breeders Cup Festival, was imagined as a “Letter of Welcome to the People of the World” in Lexington for Breeders Cup. It brought together the combined talents of noted Kentucky writer and blues musician, Nick Stump, Tom Willis, Technical Director of the Downtown Arts Center and Marjorie Guyon. Our interest was to meld image, language and light. The projection manifested as projected video on a downtown building. It premiered during the popular Halloween “Thriller” spectacle, and continued to run nightly during the Breeder’s Cup Festival. The project was a visual counterpoint aimed to bring beauty and light to a pedestrian and traffic heavy part of downtown.
Commissioned by the Lexington Parking Authority, this project addresses both the interior and exterior of the Victorian Square Parking Garage. The exterior installation works as a direction sign to lead patrons into the Garage and the 4 interior pieces illuminate an otherwise empty waiting area on each floor – creating a moment of light and beauty in the garage.
Urbandesign.org defines Civic art as the sum total of the architecture, public spaces, monuments, urban design, and landscape of a city, but it is far more than the sum of the parts. Civic art is place making into art that creates timeless civic values and helps define cultures. Guyon's projects create public exhibitions that citizens encounter as they go about their day to day lives serving as a means to integrate the transcendent experience of art into the everyday business of living.
Nation of Nations (2010)
This series of 10 pieces collectively embodies the spirit of Walt Whitman who said in his 1855 essay, Preface to the Leaves of Grass: “Here is not merely a Nation but a teeming Nation of Nations”.
The project offers a promise of hope in uncertain times. It reclaims America and her principles of liberty and justice for all with paintings entitled My Country, Of Thee, I Sing, Sweetland, Of Liberty O Beautiful, Crowned, Thy Good, Sea 2 and Shining. These phrases are pulled from the songs we sang as children in elementary school, “My Country, Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful” .
Like statues from ancient Greece, the figures in this project are unnamed and unknown. They represent us all, without the entanglements of gender, race and religion. Each 6’8” - as tall as we could be if we stretched. In the upper corner of every panel, the phrase “Have Mercy on Us” appears in 10 languages: Cherokee, Chinese, English, Arabic, Hindi, Hebrew, Swahili, Spanish, Russian and Haitian Creole. The phrase was translated by people from all around the world. It represents the powerful and common human need to be accepted and harkens to each of us to consider the way we have been taught to welcome the stranger, to give comfort to those who suffer, and to see that without mercy, we each bear the burden of the outcast.
The universal language of mathematics is interwoven through the images the way that numbers identify and define us - who and what we are, how much and how little we have. The phone number of childhood, street address, social security number, bar code, zip code, numbers tattooed onto the arms of the Jews, the branding of slaves.
We cannot wait for someone else to act as a catalyst to engage our community, our country or our world.
Short Street & Limestone Lexington,KY
Illuminated City (January 2017-present)
Main Street, Lexington, KY
The project, sponsored by the Downtown Lexington Management District, brings beauty and light to a pedestrian and traffic heavy part of downtown that has been vacant for some time. Not only does the project create a fascinating streetscape, it calls new attention to the office space available for rent and highlights a local business, in this case a boutique.
The goal of the commission was foremost to illuminate a dark street in the center of downtown. The success of the project relies on large scale dye-sublimation prints on aluminum. This project is a template for an affordable high quality public art.