Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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100 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN WE BY KATIE MOLCK PHOTO BY MICKIE WINTERS Jaylin Stewart's paintings memorialize victims of violence. "I choose my favorite picture of the victim," says 23-year- old Jaylin Stewart. "I always go for a picture where their eyes have the most innocence or they simply look overwhelmed with joy and happiness." e self-taught painter depicts people who have lost their lives to violence. A handful of the 200-plus paintings she has completed hang on the yellow walls of the spare room-turned-studio in her 42nd Street apartment. Above a wire rack holding blank canvases and acrylic paints is a portrait of Kendrick Earl "Fresh" Bell Jr., with "Fresh!" popping in white against the bright blue background. Bell is handsome, his expression soft. In August 2017, he was murdered in Victory Park in west Louisville, not far from where he and Stewart both grew up. "Victory Park, to me, always looked like family," says Stewart, whose entire family is from the neighborhood surrounding the park, bounded by West Kentucky Street, Greenwood Avenue and 22nd and 23rd streets. at part of town is where Stewart drew inspiration to begin her career as an artist. In 2016, Louisville saw 122 homicides, the city's record. "I lost count of how many people I had lost in my life," Stewart says. Her 23-year-old cousin Demond Ramsey died in a 2015 shooting. "I had to figure out what I wanted to do to bring some joy to my life and help me grieve," she says. A year after Ramsey's death, she decided to paint him. "at picture really made me feel something," she says. "When I first started…it was very painful for me. I was sad. I missed my cousin. I was admiring him, thinking, Gosh, he's so handsome. As the portrait would come along, it felt real. It felt like he was right there in front of me." In the painting, Ramsey wears a gray suit against a dark-red background. His facial features are strong, and his hair is clean, like he just left the barbershop. After an overwhelmingly positive response from friends and family on social media, Stewart decided to keep painting and sharing her work. "Painting is healing," she says. "When you look at these portraits, a lot of people don't know (the subjects are) dead because they're so beautiful." After selecting a photo and printing it off at Walgreens, Stewart will draw the person onto a blank, typically 24-by-36- inch canvas. "I paint upside-down, I paint sideways," she says. "I paint very quickly. Some artists take years to complete a work. I can do mine in a couple of hours. I don't know if it's because I'm so anxious and excited, but sitting here, I get so much energy when I do my art." Behind her wooden easel and above a pink neon sign that reads "love" is a painting of teen brothers Larry Ordway and Maurice Gordon, who were brutally stabbed to death east of Shawnee Park in 2016. On a blue-and-gold glittery background, the painting captures the brothers' youth. "When I first heard about it I felt the whole city was hurting," Stewart says. "e way it happened was just so disgusting to me." After she saw an interview with the boys' mother, she says, she had to paint them. "It wasn't a good interview in that the city didn't respond well," she says. "It was like they were pointing the finger at the mother. I was so upset about that that I wanted to use my platform to try to bring a positive image to them, because I felt people almost forgot it." ough she tried to give the painting to the boys' family, they wanted her to keep it. "Whatever exhibition I'm doing or wherever I travel, I want them to go," she says.

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