I have known Lewis for several years now and am one of the few that he trusts to adequately provide insight and perspective into his world. I don’t always get it right, but it is simply my interpretation. It has become my personal challenge and an interesting and rewarding experience, becoming his friend and having the opportunity to write about him.
Lewis lacks, for many reasons, the ability to communicate and rationalize the way most of us do. Upon encountering Lewis, it is unlikely that the experience would be forgotten. His message: loud and often abrasive, circular, rambling and multi directional. He lives in a world where good and bad energy requires amplified reaction on his part. There is no in between. To know and understand this about Lewis allows one to better engage him or live within earshot of his presence; an adjustment on our part in order to take in his unique personal traits.
So don’t be mistaken, his art is inspired by the reaction of others, the positive and/or negative experience he feels from people. To say that one could argue that his yard is a reaction to the anger and negative feelings he receives from his community borderlines my better judgment. But there is something to his persistency that correlates to the anger and legality of things. It cannot be dismissed. Perhaps this is the message, or one of them?
Early on, and during my first interview with Lewis it was apparent that I would need to create a few rules that I must follow when either writing or commenting publicly on his "work". The first is that I never engage anyone on the topic of it is right or wrong: his display and in reference to the community, neighbors etc. The second is that, if I were to gain his trust, that I would never exploit or influence his efforts in a way that were not "core" to his creative integrity. It is up to me to try and put it in to perspective, he would advise me along the way if it were close or way off. The third would be that I would try and find the core human value system within him and objectively try and put the perspective out there, for Lewis and for the community. Because I can.
I can tell you that Lewis's life is his art, his canvass appears each day when he wakes, the day unfolds in his eyes in (whether it started that way or not) an advocacy towards his interpretation that combines the Holocaust, the first amendment, liberalism and concepts of love and hate. His work: the collection, placement and manicure of his art (which, btw, extends far outside his property). It is expressed on his bike rides down Clayton Road, the chatter at local coffee houses, his “sticker car”, the pendants and tattoos—Lewis is his art and the community just happens to be in it. The more he interprets intolerance…the greater the inspiration, intensity and volume. The more he interprets love…the greater the warmth and loyalty we all receive from one of the more interesting and mis-understood people in our community.