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Evocative and unflinching, Leigh Ann Culver’s portraits depict the lives and stories of those who have frequently been overlooked or unseen by society. Culver, who spent her childhood in Florida before moving to her current home in Atlanta, finds inspiration in the people, history, and cultural significance of the American South. The region’s complexities and contradictions serve as an ongoing influence on her creative vision.


As a self-taught artist, Culver has developed an aesthetic that is uniquely and recognizably her own. Her large-scale, hyper-realistic charcoal drawings and mixed media works take visual cues from early black-and-white photography. Culver is fascinated with historical images—the single moment they capture and the spectrum of emotions they elicit. “The human face,” as Culver puts it, “immediately tells a story. It begs an emotional response, a psychological connection from the viewer.” Young millworkers, homeless veterans, and Wappo women are among the figures that populate her work. Through archival research and careful consideration, Culver translates these images into striking visual narratives of love, pain, struggle, and courage. These raw, deeply human emotions are what tether us, across space and time, to the lives in her paintings.


Culver’s most recent series, “May This Mess Be Blessed,” grapples with the wide-ranging impacts of consumer culture, from the mounds of trash in our landfills to the ongoing climate crisis. Her paintings uncover both the beauty and harm that everyday objects can produce. By reinterpreting Biblical imagery, Culver explores ideas of guilt, apathy, and responsibility associated with our modern era of consumerism.

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