Leroy Almon

Leroy Almon was born in 1938 in Tallapoosa, Georgia and raised there near the state's western border with Alabama. Following high school, Almon was a shoe salesman until moving to Columbus, Ohio, where he worked for Coca-Cola. While attending Gay Tabernacle Baptist Church in Columbus in 1979, Almon met barber and wood carver Elijah Pierce, who became his artistic mentor. Pierce taught Almon the intricacies of wood carving and showed him how to operate the gallery space that was part of his barber shop.

Both of these Black artists were profoundly influenced by their experience as Christians. After moving back to Georgia in 1982 to restore his childhood home in Tallapoosa, Almon became an ordained minister, nondenominational evangelist, and police dispatcher while continuing to make art. From 1982 until his death from a heart attack in 1997, Almon worked largely in a studio that he created in his basement. While Pierce is especially known for his detailed wood sculptures, Almon's preferred medium was the carved and painted relief woodblock.

Similar to Pierce, Almon made all of his works by hand with chisels and pocketknives. After producing preliminary sketches, Almon transferred his images to softwood panel blocks, which he painted and sometimes embellished with glitter, beads, and other found objects. Thematically, most of Almon's compositions revolve around religious concepts, with the Devil, angels, and human figures set on Earth or in Heaven with simple labels or titles. Other works focus on historical issues, the legacy of slavery, or the contemporary Black experience.

Although Almon was not widely known during his lifetime, examples of his art have subsequently been part of multiple exhibitions. Work by Almon is now included in the collections of several prestigious institutions, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

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