J. M. Culver: 100 Creatives


Number 88: J. M. Culver

City: Minneapolis

Years spent living in MN: 11 years

Though much of J. M. Culver's artwork is inspired by childhood memories her paintings, collages, and drawings are certainly not whimsical, overly precious, or twee. Rather, they speak of darker emotions, awkward reactions, and the anxieties that come with an uncertain future. Her pieces are often personal, relating back to her childhood in North Carolina spent living with her schizophrenic Grandfather. And while her large-scale art often plays with narrative, there is also a clear line drawn between fantasy and reality. Her pieces often speak to the honest and real moments in life, and while that doesn't always bring us to a comfortable place, it definitely is a compelling one.

[jump] Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:


  1. Experimenting with materials

  2. Revisiting color

  3. Fabric

Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

  1. Childhood memories

  2. Personal relationships

  3. Visceral quality and tactility of materials

What was your last big project(s)?

My last big projects were curating the exhibition "About Face" at SSCA Gallery and working on oil paintings for the MCAD Annual Art Sale.

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?

I have a show up at Spyhouse this December. I also have a solo exhibition at Gallery 122 from March 11 to April 23, 2011.

Creative/career high point (so far)?:


I've received quite a bit of press with my artwork this year and have been able to curate and organize exhibitions that I felt were successful.

What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?

It's really about balancing everything. I spend a lot of time with marketing, as it's really necessary to survive as an artist. Sometimes I struggle with creativity. I have manic periods of producing large quantities of work and then I have creative blocks that can be hard to get past. When I have a creative block, I'll just work on marketing or another project, while trying to develop ideas for my artwork. The key is to stay productive with a consistent schedule and structure.

You mention in your bio that you are interested in working with both narratives and allegories, are there any particular ones you find yourself drawn to repeatedly?


I've been exploring childhood memories that focus on growing up with my grandfather, who suffered from schizophrenia, and the impact of this relationship. They are visual narratives that capture fragments and recreate moments of childhood memories and anxieties. I started this series as large scale charcoal and acrylic drawings. I am now exploring mixed media with charcoal, acrylic, and oil with transparent layers. The new paintings/drawings are mounted on heavy cradled masonite panels. I'm also experimenting with color and materials to find new ways of approaching the narrative. I will continue with this theme until I feel it is exhausted. I see myself working with this narrative for quite a while. It might eventually develop into sculpture, or perhaps a more abstract expression of memory. I'm interested to see how it evolves in the future.

How has the local scene changed since you began your career?

The Twin Cities has always had a close arts community. Over the years younger artists seem to be more involved and eager to help out in the community. This is really helpful for the non-profit organizations and smaller galleries in town.

Anything else you'd like the Twin Cities to know about you?

I have a strong interest in working with non-profit organizations and maintaining an active and committed connection within the arts community. When I'm not painting in my studio or doing my own marketing, I'm usually working in a gallery or volunteering at a non-profit organization. I have a background with development, cultivation, fundraising, stewardship, marketing communications, curation, installation, exhibition, events organization, and organizational management. I have a five year plan that includes attending grad school for my MFA in painting and having an art gallery featuring work from emerging artists.

Looking to learn more about J. M. Culver? Check out her official website.


Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.

Past creatives, so far:

100. Jennifer Davis

99. Sean Smuda

98. Chuck U


96. Amy Rice

95. Kara Hendershot