Welcome to the UK Art Museum

The University of Kentucky Art Museum, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, promotes the understanding and appreciation of art from diverse cultures and historical periods, providing meaningful encounters for audiences of all ages. Through our temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and permanent collection of approximately 5000 objects, we are a resource for the campus community and a cultural destination for citizens of the Commonwealth and beyond.  Our Free Admission policy removes any financial obstacle that might stand in the way of opportunities for contemplation and connection.

We are proud to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, meeting standards for excellence and professional practices.

painting by Craig Drennen

Acquisitions, Donations, Connections

This exhibition features numerous works that have entered the Museum’s permanent collection in recent years, and reveals how they relate to other art already in our possession. We are lucky to receive donation offers from generous collectors in our region and beyond, and we consider their proposals carefully. Our goal is always to add examples of underrepresented artists and fill gaps in historical periods, media, and subject matter. We also try to build on existing strengths, expanding holdings of specific artists and areas in which we already have excellent examples. Using collection-dedicated funds, we strategically acquire art, often from our temporary exhibitions and by acclaimed photographers who have lectured as part of our Robert C. May Photography Lecture Series.

Like many museums whose collecting practices try to make up for decades of neglect when it comes to works by women and artists of color, we too have tried to correct these imbalances. When art is “…

image of Guy Mendes, Captain Kentucky, a.k.a. Ed Mclanahan, Lexington, KY, 1972, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist.

Guy Mendes: Cohorts

This modest survey of portraits by Guy Mendes documents a network of his friendships and the range of creative practitioners he sought out to spend time with and visit. The photographs are infused with a sense of warmth and trust, exemplifying the statement that Mendes remembers his teacher James Baker Hall telling him: “A portrait is given as much as it is taken.”

In discussing the occasions when he was able to make pictures with some of Kentucky’s most acclaimed artists, writers, and teachers, Mendes said, “Each visit to a home or studio was a small celebration, an opportunity to see their work and learn more about them.” Images of Wendell Berry, Jay Bolotin, Guy Davenport, Harlan Hubbard, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, Ann Tower, Jonathan Williams, and others reveal Mendes’s precise eye for his subject’s body language and sense of self. His compositions frame them in domestic and outdoor environments in natural light, comfortable in the act of being photographed.…

etching on paper

Francisco de Goya: Los Disparates

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) is considered Spain’s most important artist at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. He was a court painter for fifty years, producing royal portraits for generations of kings and their families. Los Disparates, his last great series of etching and aquatint prints, was made toward the end of his life. Rather than reflecting the career of a celebrated artist, they are the work of a tortured individual. Goya survived a near-fatal illness that left him deaf, and he lived through a seven-year war that lay waste to the Iberian Peninsula, resulting in a breakdown of Spanish society and a reintroduction of the Inquisition.

Considered his darkest and most mysterious body of work, Los Disparates is also among his most inventive. His fantastic, menacing combinations of humans, animals, goblins, and supernatural creatures seem to satirize humanity’s cruelty. His plates were not printed until thirty-six years after his death,…

plant

re:museum

The re:museum exhibition centers our permanent collection and the UK Art Museum itself through artworks, educational prompts, and other incisive displays. The artworks on view in re:museum draw from our Digital Learning Gallery, an online resource established through a UK Arts Extension Outreach Grant that connects art lovers from across the Commonwealth to our collection. re:museum offers visitors an opportunity to view objects up close and complements online engagement with unique in-person opportunities. Each item on view in re:museum includes contextual background information, contemplative prompts, and activities for a variety of ages and art experience levels.

In addition to the artwork on display, re:museum also features insights into the UK Art Museum’s history as well as details on how we install exhibitions and maintain a permanent collection of over 5,000 artworks. How high on the wall are paintings hung? What happens to a photograph before and after it is on…

Photograph of Charles Williams' "Untitled (Pencil Holder)" - pencils and office supplies in a holder against a white background.

The Life and Death of Charles Williams

Charles Williams (1942–1998) was born in Blue Diamond, KY, and as a child, he taught himself to draw by copying comic book figures like Superman, Dick Tracy, and Captain Marvel. In the early 1960s, he enrolled at the Breckinridge Job Corps Center in Morganfield to learn practical job skills. There, he honed his writing proficiency, made photographs, and developed his first regular comic strip, titled JC of the Job Corps, which appeared weekly on the back page of the Breckinridge Bugle—the camp newspaper.

Working as a full-time janitor at the IBM Corporation in Lexington, Williams continued to develop his artistic practice, creating comic narratives, including the Amazing Spectacular Captain Soul Superstar, a caped superhero who fights against the perpetrators of the intergalactic slave trade. His mini-series called the Cosmic Giggles recounts the experiences of aliens visiting Earth, where they observe racism, venereal disease, economic inequality, and…

Image captions:  James “Son Ford” Thomas sculptures, collection of Linda and George Kurz.  David Farris, Untitled, ink on Herald Leader sports photographs. Courtesy of the artist.

Mortal Coil: James “Son Ford” Thomas & David Farris

This exhibition brings together two accomplished musicians whose unique visual art focuses on the human body. James “Son Ford” Thomas (1926–1993) grew up in Mississippi and learned to play blues guitar by listening to the radio. His job as a gravedigger had a profound effect on his clay sculptures of animals, portrait busts, and skulls, often adorned with teeth, hair, beads, and foil. David Farris is a Lexington-based drummer and member of several local bands. He maintains an active drawing practice, altering newspaper images of sporting events with ink and filling notebooks with line drawings and animation sequences.

Thomas claimed to rely on dreams to inspire his songs and precisely sculpted beings, and both are marked by qualities of melancholy and resignation. Farris regularly posts short video sequences of his percussive experimentation on Instagram. He approaches aural and visual creation with a sense of mastery and restlessness,…

Photograph of Charles Williams' "Untitled (Pencil Holder)" - pencils and office supplies in a holder against a white background.

The Life and Death of Charles Williams

Charles Williams (1942–1998) was born in Blue Diamond, KY, and as a child, he taught himself to draw by copying comic book figures like Superman, Dick Tracy, and Captain Marvel. In the early 1960s, he enrolled at the Breckinridge Job Corps Center in Morganfield to learn practical job skills. There, he honed his writing proficiency, made photographs, and developed his first regular comic strip, titled JC of the Job Corps, which appeared weekly on the back page of the Breckinridge Bugle—the camp newspaper.

Working as a full-time janitor at the IBM Corporation in Lexington, Williams continued to develop his artistic practice, creating comic narratives, including the Amazing Spectacular Captain Soul Superstar, a caped superhero who fights against the perpetrators of the intergalactic slave trade. His mini-series called the Cosmic Giggles recounts the experiences of aliens visiting Earth, where they observe racism, venereal disease, economic inequality, and…

Image captions:  James “Son Ford” Thomas sculptures, collection of Linda and George Kurz.  David Farris, Untitled, ink on Herald Leader sports photographs. Courtesy of the artist.

Mortal Coil: James “Son Ford” Thomas & David Farris

This exhibition brings together two accomplished musicians whose unique visual art focuses on the human body. James “Son Ford” Thomas (1926–1993) grew up in Mississippi and learned to play blues guitar by listening to the radio. His job as a gravedigger had a profound effect on his clay sculptures of animals, portrait busts, and skulls, often adorned with teeth, hair, beads, and foil. David Farris is a Lexington-based drummer and member of several local bands. He maintains an active drawing practice, altering newspaper images of sporting events with ink and filling notebooks with line drawings and animation sequences.

Thomas claimed to rely on dreams to inspire his songs and precisely sculpted beings, and both are marked by qualities of melancholy and resignation. Farris regularly posts short video sequences of his percussive experimentation on Instagram. He approaches aural and visual creation with a sense of mastery and restlessness,…

Created 08/13/2021
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Last Updated 07/01/2022