Art helps us interpret the world around us. These five Alabama painters help us understand the current events of their time and how that impacts the way we see the state. Have you heard of these influential Alabama painters?
1. Charly Palmer
Charly Palmer was born in 1960 in Fayette, Alabama and raised in Milwaukee. He studied Art and Design at American Academy of Art and at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
Palmer is best known for creating the album cover for John Legend’s “Bigger Love,” illustrating the cover of Time Magazine’s “America Must Change” 2020 issue and illustrating Mama Africa, a children’s book on the Grammy award winning South African singer Miriam Makeba. In 2018, he received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for his illustrations of Mama Africa.
Sometimes you may find his art under the pseudonym Carlos. Under this persona, he explores more abstract and primal art. Palmer’s subjects are often landscapes and portraits.
Painting with acrylics, he explores the tumultuous journey from Africa and how that shapes the Black perspective in the United States today. Palmer’s colors are deep, bold and dark, contrasting with lighter backgrounds to direct focus towards his subjects’ regality and beauty.
Palmer currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and teaches at Spelman College.
2. Lynthia Edwards
Lynthia Edwards was born and raised in Alexander City, Alabama. She enjoyed drawing as a kid and pursued art in her post-secondary education.
Edwards has an Associate’s degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Atlanta, a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Auburn University of Montgomery and a Master’s degree in Art Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Edwards’ art paints the story of growing up as a middle class African-American girl in the South. Her colorful pieces imbue the canvas with life, displaying the power of “Black girl magic.” Edwards specifically chooses young girls that she feels a connection with and that she sees herself in.
Like other Alabama painters, Edwards’ work caught the attention of prominent people. John Lewis even bought a portrait she made of him back in 2019 before he passed away. During his funeral procession in Montgomery, Edwards was invited to paint another portrait of him.
She taught art for thirteen years at the State of Alabama Department of Youth Services School District and now teaches art for i3 Academy/ Woodlawn Community Charter School in Birmingham, AL.
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3. Wes Hardin
Unlike the other artists listed here, Wes Hardin is not one of the the native Alabama painters. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1960 and raised along the Gulf Coast.
However, he now resides in Alabama, and his influence is interwoven into the fabric of several smaller southeastern cities in Alabama.
Hardin studied Illustration and Advertising Design in South Florida at The Art Institute. From 1989 to 1999, he worked as the creative director of Durden Outdoor Display in Dothan, Alabama. Hardin continues to live and work in Dothan as a portrait artist and muralist.
You can find Hardin’s murals in Andalusia, Dothan and Union Springs, Alabama to name a few. Most of his murals capture local and state history or are odes to beloved city landmarks. He turns city landscapes into colorful scavenger hunts that light up the area.
Thanks to the increase of mural hunting via social media, Hardin’s large scale works draw attention and visitors to small, rural areas that otherwise might not be on people’s radars.
4. Roger Brown
Roger Brown was born in Hamilton, Alabama in December 10, 1941. Several prominent Alabama painters studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, including Roger Brown.
Most notable of his style are the landscape paintings he created, depicting people and nature amid apocalyptic backgrounds. He was associated with the Chicago Imagists movement because of his unconventional designs and bright colors.
Brown’s works reflected the anxieties of the political climate of his time. Tied in with his queer identity, his pieces began to focus on creating AIDS awareness during the late seventies and early eighties.
In his later life, Brown hoped to return to Alabama. He was in the process of developing his fourth home and studio in 1997. He purchased the Rock House in Beulah, Alabama—a house he knew from his childhood that was only fifteen miles from his parent’s home.
He died on November 22, 1997 of AIDS-related complications. His parents and brother completed his move into the house, turning it into the Roger Brown Rock House Museum in 1999. You can see some of his work at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA).
5. Clara Weaver Parrish
This historic painter was born in Selma, Alabama March 16, 1861. Clara Weaver Parrish’s parents cultivated her passion and talent from a young age, letting her study at Art Students League of New York.
By 1901, her works were featured in art exhibitions in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, the Chicago World’s Fair and the Paris Exposition, where her pictures were chosen as representative of American Art.
Although Parrish makes this list for her paintings, she is also well known for stained glass windows. You can still find her stained glass windows at these following Alabama churches: Church of the Holy Cross in Uniontown, Christ Church in Tuscaloosa, First Baptist Church in Selma and St. Paul’s in Selma.
Parrish died November 11, 1925 and was interred beside her husband in the Weaver plot at Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama. She established in her will the Weaver-Parrish Memorial Trust Fund that is administered by St. Paul’s Church.
This trust fund has helped Selma citizens in need, particularly amongst the Black community of Selma as well. Her clever investments allow the trust fund to continue to this day. She was inducted into Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983. You can also find some of her art at the MMFA.
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