Visual Arts

Artist brings light and life to empty downtown Lexington storefronts

Marjorie Guyon sits with some of her artwork in a window facing West Main Street in Lexington’s Triangle Center. Her art, along with dresses from Bella Rose, is part of the “Illuminated City” project by the Downtown Lexington Management District.
Marjorie Guyon sits with some of her artwork in a window facing West Main Street in Lexington’s Triangle Center. Her art, along with dresses from Bella Rose, is part of the “Illuminated City” project by the Downtown Lexington Management District. cbertram@herald-leader.com

When artist Marjorie Guyon walked around downtown Lexington in October, she saw empty windows and the potential to turn the ordinary into extraordinary.

“Illuminated City” is a project that brings light to unoccupied storefronts in downtown Lexington and is sponsored by the Downtown Lexington Management District.

In late January, the artwork from “Illuminated City” was installed in what used to be the Windstream office in the Triangle Center. Guyon said the DLMD owns the artwork and can move it to other empty spaces.

The pieces include aluminum panels as a canvas for Lexington-related photos. Guyon printed the panels through a process called dye-sublimation print, said Patrick Martin, her studio administrator.

When she was thinking of subjects, Guyon thought about what language and images would speak to Lexingtonians. She used the color blue to represent the Big Blue Nation and horses to represent the horse capital of the world. She said she wanted to reflect the intrinsic beauty of Central Kentucky.

“The Native Americans said that there was a holy spirit in the land of Central Kentucky and I think we are blessed to be in this place,” Guyon said.

Guyon, who has been a full-time artist for 30 years, describes most of her work as exhibition art. But she wanted to explore a different route with this project. “Illuminated City” isn’t an exhibition, but rather artwork that highlights a normal space.

Next to the artwork, Guyon added dresses from Bella Rose. She wanted to recreate the human form with mannequins to give viewers the impression of walking on a street and window shopping. Guyon took some inspiration from Manhattan, where window displays play a huge part in pedestrian life.

Bella Rose owner Betty Spain said she has never participated in a project like this before, but she would love to again in the future. Spain said she would love to have some of the pieces hanging in her house.

“Both (Marjorie and I) are local artists who admire each other and thought a collaboration would be a good fit,” Spain said.

Artist Marjorie Guyon took some inspiration from Manhattan, where window displays play a huge part in pedestrian life.

Martin said that when he and Guyon finished installing the work, a man stopped to look at the artwork and then asked if they created the work. Martin explained that Guyon was the artist and the man said he thought the work was beautiful and “out-of-the-box.”

“It was so overwhelming for us to kind of get that immediate reaction as we were leaving from the installation,” Martin said.

“Illuminated City” is only one of DLMD’s projects sponsored by the group to illuminate downtown’s streets in a unique way. The group’s chairman, Jim Frazier, said that part of the group’s mission is to bring life and excitement to the district.

Last September, DLMD hired Block by Block, a cleaning and outreach service, to begin cleaning up the streets, Frazier said. Then, DLMD started connecting with local artists, like Guyon, to install artwork.

One of Guyon’s works, a blue piece called “Revelations,” was first installed in early December in the former Town Branch Market windows on Main Street and Esplanade. Now, the building is home to the Casual Pint, a Tennessee-based franchise that sells craft beer. “Revelations” is now in the Triangle Center.

“Marjorie has taken the lead on these projects, but they are open to anyone,” Fraizer said.

DLMD is looking for more “dark windows” to install art in and give vibrance to downtown. One project will go on the Town Square Garage, and within the next month, banners with local artists’ works, including Guyon’s, will be hung across the area, Frazier said. As for the “Illuminated City” pieces, business owners within the district can apply on the DLMD’s website to have the artwork featured in their windows.

“Art can shift things. It has power,” Guyon said. “I just believe that we need to use it as a good force.”

McKenna Horsley: 859-231-1687, @mckennahorsley

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