A few weeks ago I got to talk to the artist Earl Lewis in Philadelphia. He’s an amazing painter, creating both fine art and children’s book illustrations and I found him to be a remarkably nice and kind man. He has a terrific website, EBLewis.com, which I will use to show you some of his work for this film. My name is Earl Lewis. I go by E.B. Lewis for my literary name. I do children’s books as well as the fine art. This work that I’m showing here is real exciting for me, because it’s a brand new work. I took a hiatus from my work, my fine art work, because I felt that it wasn’t relevant. I wanted it to say something. I wanted it to speak to what’s happening in our society, and as a result I took about two and a half years off to do this work. And I mean nothing was coming and I just spent the time going in and out of galleries, bought a lot of reading and one day I was in the studio and it hit! After just working at it and working at these sketches. I knew it then. There were times that I spent going out to get coffee at the Wawa, down in South Jersey. I went there and started noticing the people in there just buying these scratch off tickets and scratching their lives away trying to make that winning ticket, that million-to-one shot …million-to-one opportunity. A lot of times they would have their children there, and I could see their children there, just sitting there wondering, “Your buying these tickets….” and it almost appears as if they’re saying “You need to get something to eat.” And I felt this was a comment I needed to make, a statement that I needed to make. So I went back to the studio and started working on these “Lotto Icons.” These pieces are basically speaking of our society and how we spend so much time in that frivolous pursuit of getting rich quick, and all we need to do is realize that our children are our most precious commodity and if we just scratch them enough, scratch them deep enough, we will find that to be true. So, that’s what these pieces are about. So what happened is that I started to do these little pieces in a sketch book. And I realized to actually take it to the next step would be actually to do it on a lottery ticket. So I went out and bought these lottery tickets, and the first one that I came across and it hit in Kentucky. So I called a friend in Kentucky, and said, “Look, I need you to send me 50 lottery tickets.” He was quite taken aback, and said, “What do you want these for, do you feel lucky or something?” I said, “No, I just need them, so I’ll send you $50.” So I had these lottery tickets in my possession and decided that I don’t want to scratch these lottery tickets, because it’s going to really speak to the purpose of what I want them to say. I figured that if you don’t scratch the ticket, you don’t know whether or not it’s a winning ticket or a losing ticket. Just like our children, we don’t know whether or not they’re winners or losers until we scratch them. And so, I started to do these images on top of these lottery tickets. So, I built this body of work that I’m really excited about. This is the first time they are being shown. The response is fantastic. It’s exciting and I’m loving that the people are actually coming to the work, looking at the work and getting it, and understanding exactly what I am talking about. And the work has so many layers. I’m not only talking about the issue of “scratching the surface” in terms of the importance of our children, but I am also going back into the Byzantine Period, the 12th century Byzantine Italian Art with the icons. It’s almost like a contradiction of terms. These icons, in the 12th century, would never have been done of these impoverished kids. They were only done of the Christ figure, the Pope, or someone like that, of importance. But never, in a million years would it have been done on these children. So, this is number one in a series. The first series is an African American series. And then there are going to be series all over the world.
So I’m doing children all over the world. The next will be Asian, Latino, and so on. And they are going to go all over the world, dealing with these issues of our children and how we need to really look at them and appreciate them.