LaVon Van Williams, Jr., uses the traditional wood-carving techniques of Western Africa to depict images of contemporary African-American life. He learned these skills from a brother, who in turn, learned from an uncle. Much of his work reflects the close-knit community of his Lakeland, Florida roots, as well as his love of jazz, passed down from his father, a jazz aficionado. His art could be seen as a visual form of jazz: a syncopation of the human form in motion, grounded in the African-American experiences, and universal in its appeal.

LaVon was recruited to play for the U.K. basketball team, and was a member of the Wildcat’s team that won the NCAA Championship in 1978. After earning a degree in sociology, he played basketball in Europe before returning home in the mid-1980s.

Williams was the 2006 recipient of the Kentucky Governor’s Award in the Arts. A retrospective of his artwork “Rhythm in Relief,” was mounted by the Kentucky Folk Art Center of Morehead.