2021 Juror: JM Culver

Artist Bio

J. M. Culver is a contemporary figurative artist who creates portraits and psychological narratives with universal themes. She explores figuration and abstraction through a combination of painting and drawing. Prominent themes in her work are the transitory nature of memory, social dynamics, and personal allegories that give an intimate and tangible glimpse into the human psyche.

Culver attended Syracuse University in New York for graduate studies and holds a BFA in painting from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is a featured artist on the MN Original TV series, a recipient of two Artist Initiative Grants from the MN State Arts Board, a recipient of a First Place International Award for painting from the FSU Museum of Fine Arts, has exhibited alongside Margaret Keane’s paintings in an international exhibition curated by the editor of Juxtapoz Magazine, and has been featured in numerous publications.

Culver is a former gallery director and curator. She actively exhibits her work, which is held in private collections internationally. Culver is a member of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) and works full-time in her studio located in Minneapolis.

 Artist Statement

My large-scale paintings represent reality and fantasy with a fresh perspective through generational storytelling. These massive figurative works are personal interpretations of my grandfather’s stories, both lucid memories and surreal moments skewed by his altered mental states from schizophrenia. From sensory triggers to quiet moments, I use secondary memories to visually explore character development, the strength of character, and the character as a metaphor.

With life-size narratives, I reimagine scenes of my grandfather fighting a gorilla during the Vietnam War, nostalgic days at the beach, and provocative hallucinations from his viewpoint. Bordering between representation and abstraction, these vivid paintings utilize the emotive effect of color with both experimental and traditional methods. By working on multiple pieces simultaneously, each painting intuitively influences the next through a variation of color, process, and application.

My work presents an intimate and tangible expression of memory that embraces universal themes of the human condition with exploring the mundanity, gravity, and the humor of life at its brightest and darkest points. From dramatic character portraits to psychological narratives, my paintings explore the transitory nature of memory, the ownership of stories and secrets, and the inconsistency of perspective with mental illness and personal identity.

My large-scale paintings present a stimulating experience that invites the viewer into a colorful, provocative, and imaginary world of storytelling. Previous generation’s memories become our memories as they are handed down to us. We retell stories to each new generation within our families that become part of our own memories and experiences. As products of previous generations, we are all tied in very complex lineages of thoughts, memories, feelings, and associations. By using story telling we can understand our complex emotions, individual, and shared experiences.

Through exhibiting my work, I encourage an open forum interacting with the creative community, the mental health community, and the general public by raising awareness and challenging stigmatization of mental illness and social welfare. My intention is to create paintings that have personal significance and create social consciousness to connect and emotionally resonate with the viewer.