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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In Other Words: To See a Sea of Possibilities

Lemual Ferguson holding one of his bowl. A window pane that he has created hangs behind him. 

By  Chuck Keller 

Paleontologists and archeologists have discovered fossilized footprints of people that are over 100,000 years old. But think of all of the feet that have since trampled, danced, skipped, strolled, and kicked over the earth since then. And scientists have also determined that some cave paintings are 40,000 years old. These people never thought that their art or imprint would last so long.  But it strikes me that the artist is keenly aware of his footprint or impression. One such person is Lemual Ferguson, artist and owner of Field of Vue in Bellevue.

It turns out that Lemual was a natural talent and his teachers fostered that. He credits his high school art teacher at Bellevue High School who often entered his work into contests without his permission, but one, sponsored by the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club, won him a year at the prestigious Cincinnati Art Academy. He had found his passion.

But then a funny thing happened. After a stint in the Air Force he applied to work for CG&E, the one time local power company. So I took the physical test and pass with flying colors. So they started flashing up these cards with all of these blobs of colors. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘you have a partial color blindness.’  Well, that kind of throws my painting out. He laughs. The irony of a painter who is color blind did not stop him.

He speaks highly of his shop teacher who fostered a love of woodworking. I took shop in high school and everything fell into place…. They had great machines, industrial. So he learned the craft when he was young and eventually this became his artistic medium.

Now he makes art the old way - with dovetail, mortise and tenon,- no nails or screws - like the Gustav Stickley furniture that he admires. And that is where he excels. His pieces are functional works of art. The color variations, the joinery, the finishes, the presence of the piece in the room. They inspire an imaginative journey. Just beautiful.

So I had to ask.  How do you see the world?
Lem says that Everything is a snapshot and has the potential to become art.  He is an avid photographer and he composes photos like a painting. After all, photography is painting with light. He talks about the light in the evening along the avenue. About quarter after eight the building along here just light up. It’s that golden moment. It’s doesn’t stay long. And that seems to be the thing with an artist. Not only do they see, but they have vision. They discover the golden moment and then share it with us.

Two Ferguson originals. 
We are surrounded by art and each of us is an artist in some way, it’s just that we just don’t recognize or acknowledge it. Which is kind of sad because art enriches our lives, adds meaning, provides beauty, reflects our view of the world, and somehow changes us.

When I stopped in to visit Lemual one day and I saw him give art supplies to kids in the neighborhood simply because they asked.  That was a beautiful gesture.  Very revealing.  He says, The thing about being an artist is that you try to see the beauty in everything and everyone. And that child went home to draw something.  Who knows where that act will take that child? 

I asked if he signs his woodwork pieces like painters sign canvas. Lemual revealed, I purposely leave a flaw in everything I make. It’s my signature.  It might be minute and hard to see but it is a flaw nonetheless. Why? It’s my signature. I am not perfect. Nothing is. Nothing I ever make is going to be perfect.  That reminds me what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is a crack in everything God made.” So, in a way, our imperfections become our attractions and our signatures. It makes us unique. There will be things that I make that are beautiful but I will leave that one spot unsanded. Leave it the way that I got it. I don’t have to write my name on it. The universe wrote its name on it. I am not that important.  I can tell you that you will never see the flaw.

What advice does he have for someone who might want to pursue the life of an artist? Look and read as much as you possible can, he said. Being an artist is so different than any other vocation. You know, it’s no different than being a teacher or an engineer. You have to study. You have to look. You have to listen. You have to see what other people are doing….And then look for the golden moments. 

So the artist makes people a little more aware, reveals something, or connects the dots of the world. Lemual, ended our conversation with, Have no judgments. Don’t judge it good or bad. Just look at it. As soon as you judge, you limit it, whatever is. And that is the worse thing that you could do is to limit, to not see the possibilities.  Now that’s a great way to view the world. 


  1. Cool! Lem is one of my favorite people.

  2. This the most profoundly educational interview I've ever read on Fort Thomas Matters. Thank you Mark and Lemual.