LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — He’s a man with one name and many talents. Dafri is a local artist best known for his mixed-media portraits. He draws inspiration from his African American roots, piecing together a person’s features using candid photos of black Kentuckians.
“Your hands tell a story. Your smile tells a story. Your eyes tell a story. Who doesn’t love a good story?” said Dafri.
He hasn’t always been an artist though. He used to work in the horse racing industry as an equine surgery technician. He said out of about 200 employees, he was one of only three African Americans.
However, a lack of diversity wasn’t always the case. In the 19th century, Black slaves often cared for and trained horses at the track. At times they rode the horses as well. In fact, it was Oliver Lewis, a black jockey, who sat atop the first horse to win the iconic Kentucky Derby.
“I have always had this love for the equine,” said Dafri. “But I also have love for my own history, and how that plays a part in it. ”
Many of his pieces highlight the connection between his two loves. Others highlight the everyday experiences of a person of color.
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At the moment, Dafri’s favorite piece is one he calls “Through Rose Colored Glasses.” It’s his attempt to reframe the conversation surrounding the Black community by breaking down stigmas and stereotypes. He mixed and matched features from 14 Black faces, living 14 black lives, to create it.
“I just want people to enjoy a good story,” he said. “Also, learn something in the process. Maybe about yourself or maybe about somebody else.”
Dafri Studios is at Julietta Market, which is inside the historic Greyline Station, on West Loudon Avenue. It’s open Thursday through Sunday. The hours are posted here.