By The Hand of a Conceptualist

For many years, Louis Zoellar Bickett – a Lexington-based, self-taught, conceptualist with extraordinary bravado – has been recording his thoughts and feelings through poetry. In a recent interview with me, Louis stated that it is the writing of a literate sentence that thrills him above all other modes of artistic expression. This may come as a surprise to those of us who know him for the 10,000 Selfies, The Archive or his performances like the Cultural Mudding Rituals.

In December of 2015, Louis was diagnosed with ALS. We have wept at the news and whispered aloud our concerns for the difficult road he now faces, and we’ve made plans to celebrate the life and work of this profoundly prolific artist. This series will follow those plans as they unfold. Spearheaded by Stuart Horodner, Director of the University of Kentucky Art Museum, five spaces will mount a city-wide retrospective of Louis’ work beginning in late August: The UK Art Museum and Hospital, Institute 193, 21c Museum/Hotel, and the Lexington Art League.

Among the many things that I learned from our four-hour interview was that Louis was honestly relieved to finally learn what was ailing him. As an Existentialist ‘not about to have a conversion now’, Louis did not have a ‘go-to-pieces’ when he heard the news. Instead, he has decided to bring some finality to the many projects he has been working on for over forty years. He also spoke of the manner in which he will enter his own body into The Archive, a near forty-year endeavor to label, organize and categorize every object in his life.

The poetry, which is part of a larger manuscript, has become an essential and cathartic exercise. With it he openly addresses the physical and psychological challenges he now navigates. Louis has been sharing these poems with me and small group of ‘readers’ for many years; however, it was not until I began recording him reading these that I realized that they too might be cathartic for us.

Here, with the reading of My Right Hand, we introduce a series of short podcasts of Louis reading aloud. UnderMain is committed to bringing you the rest of these extraordinary interviews with Louis in a series of podcasts over the next several weeks. We do this at Louis’ invitation as part of what may be his final work.

Aaron Michael Skolnick, Right Hand, 2014

Aaron Michael Skolnick, Right Hand, 2016

This project is done in collaboration with AEQAI of Cincinnati, an on-line journal dedicated to critical review. Daniel Brown, editor, has been publishing Louis’ poetry for more than a year. UnderMain extends its appreciation to Aaron Skolnick and Neil Kesterson of Dynamix Productions for their assistance with these many recordings. Full disclosure: the author/interviewer and her husband have collected Louis’ work for many years. 

Topmost Featured Image: Photo: Aaron Michael Skolnick. Drawing: Christine Huskisson

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