Visit famed photographer John Stephen Hockensmith’s studio in Historic Downtown Georgetown, Kentucky.
Plus, while in Georgetown, check out more art stops.
By Hope S. Philbrick
“I think we are a burgeoning art destination,” says photographer John Stephen Hockensmith. We’re enjoying lunch at Galvin’s on Main in Historic Downtown Georgetown, Kentucky, and he’s more eager to talk up his town than his own accomplishments. He says, “We have quite a few artists in town, several art boutiques, antique shops, and galleries nestled here in Bluegrass horse and bourbon country.”
True. But frankly, though he may be reluctant to point it out himself, Hockensmith’s gallery is a driving force of the town’s art scene.
John Stephen Hockensmith is one of the nation’s premier equine photographers. Born in 1954 in Cynthiana, Ky., he took up photography at an early age and later studied art and photography at Georgetown College. He began his professional career in 1975, working for the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a photographer. Four years later he started the independent photography business in Georgetown known today as Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press.
“You mentioned the need to carve out a niche for yourself,” he says after I explain my motivations for launching Getaways for Grownups, because he asked. “That’s one reason why I focused on equine photography.” He says that he basically followed his gut instinct to photograph horses, despite being discouraged with the sorts of lines all creatives have heard, such as “That will never work!” and “It won’t sell!”
His stunning photographs of horses range from dreamy vistas dotted with wild mustangs to close-ups of thoroughbreds racing at full speed. Whether or not you adore horses, there’s much to admire about his ability to capture their spirit.
He’s photographed more than horses over the course of his career. Other works include a study of the lifecycle of monarch butterflies, Kentucky landscapes, the American West, and more.
If you walk into his gallery intent on buying a print, it can be difficult to choose. If you walk into his gallery with no plans to buy anything, odds are good that something will catch your eye and you’ll walk out with it carefully wrapped in a bag—as I did on my first visit to Georgetown last fall. (I’d purchased a Hockensmith print before I ever met the artist; the print hanging in my office is of a horse running free under the moon. And I love it.)
Hockensmith has worked as a photographer for the Kentucky State Government, Georgetown College, Churchill Downs, Keeneland, and Al Khayal Magazine. Corporate clients include Toyota, Lexmark, The Kentucky Horse Park, and Universal Studios. His principal exhibitions include: Put this Moment Here (1986) at the Headley-Whitney Museum; Rare Breeds: From Figurative to Abstract (2004) and Gypsy Horses and the Travelers’ Way (2006) at The Kentucky Horse Park International Museum of the Horse in Lexington; and Spanish Mustangs in the Great American West (2009), a large format exhibition accompanying his book release that filled all three galleries of the Headley-Whitney Museum.
After we finish lunch and return to his gallery, he generously gives me a copy of his book, Spanish Mustangs in the Great American West, pointing out that 2019 will be the 500th anniversary of the return of the horse to North America. Amazing!
Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press showcases Hockensmith’s work, and also serves as a custom frame shop, giclée printer, photo restorer, and offers mural and installation services. I’m invited into the back room for a peek at his printing process and it feels sort of like stepping behind the curtain with the Wizard of Oz, yet more impressive because even after a behind-the-scenes glimpse magic lingers. Stacks of colorful prints are created with a mix of skill, technology, and sheer imagination that I’ll never really understand.
A new exhibit in one area of the gallery and new book by Hockensmith, The Gift of Color, showcases the life and art of another prolific Kentucky artist, Henry Lawrence Faulkner (1924-1981). Hockensmith met Faulkner in Lexington in 1978, shortly after opening his frame shop; talk to him about the project for a few seconds and it’s clear that he’s thrilled to be showcasing the accomplishments of his friend. The book is illustrated with over 100 true color reproductions of Faulkner’s paintings plus selections of his poetry. The exhibit includes several original Faulkner paintings as well as prints, all of which are for sale. The Henry Faulkner Giclée Project offers limited editions of select works (100 numbered prints with 10 printer proofs; all copyrighted in accordance with the artist’s wishes and all rights properly obtained).
Whatever is on display at the time of your visit, there’s much to admire at Hockensmith’s gallery.
More Art in Georgetown…
Anniemals Art Studio showcases the works of Annie Brady, who Hockensmith describes as a “true artist.” Annie is an award-winning artist and floral designer whose shop is filled with a wide range of works from note cards to T-shirts, sketches to paintings and more. She’s prolific and creates at least one new work each day! Annie works in many different mediums including acrylic, torn paper, pencil, pastels, photography, pottery and more. She loves animals, so most of her works feature critters. Her eye-popping shop is packed with much to look at, including many pieces that are affordably priced.
There are lots of other artsy boutiques to explore Downtown Georgetown: Birdsong Quilting & Crafts, Cravens & Lewis Jewelers, Georgetown Antique Mall, Robert Clark Gallery, Scott County Arts & Cultural Center, Scrap-Paper-Scizzors, and more!
My advice: Visit Georgetown for its art and arrive with money to spend because odds are that you’ll find something you want to take home.
Hockensmith Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press
146 E. Main St.
Georgetown KY 40324
– Photo Credits: courtesy Fine Art Editions and Georgetown Tourism. Click on each individual image for details.
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to John Stephen Hockensmith for his generous gifts of time, lunch, and art.