Leroy Almon Sr.


was a carver born in Tallapoosa, Georgia. He moved with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he was seven. He attended Kentucky State University in the late 1950s,and in 1961 served in the United States Army. He had a number of other sales jobs before the Coca-Cola Company hired him to work in that capacity in Columbus,Ohio. While living there, in the late 1970s, he began making painted bas-relief carvings under the influence of Elijah Pierce (1892–1984), an African Americanvernacular artist and former itinerant preacher widely known for his religiously inspired woodcarvings.Pierce made his living operating a barbershop that doubled as a gallery for displaying his painted basreliefs. Deeply affected by Pierce’s artworks and the spiritualteachings many of them embodied, Almon apprenticed himself to the aging artist and, after he lost his job with Coca-Cola, worked alongside him for three years,serving as the “curator” of Pierce’s barbershop gallery. Their relationship stands as a rare example among contemporary African American folk artists, few of whomhave been known to take apprentices. Almon initially provided Pierce with minor assistance, but eventually they collaborated on works as equal partners.In 1982, two years before Pierce’s death, Almon moved back to his birthplace and childhood hometown in northwest Georgia. In Tallapoosa he found employmentas a radio dispatcher for the police department and began preaching as a non-denominational, Christian evangelist. He also continued to make his own painted bas-reliefs, which, over time, became increasingly distinctive and less derivative of Pierce’s work.Almon actively promoted himself as a folk artist, and he succeeded to the extent that he was able to retire from the police department in 1994. By that time he hadmoved back into and restored his childhood home, whose basement he transformed into a workshop and gallery for displaying his art. Most of his work falls into two basic thematic categories: the African American experience, and the teachings of Christianity, with special emphasis on messages of personal resourcefulness andspiritual redemption.As he came into his own artistically, Almon reflected on his career and that of his mentor’s, remarking, “The only difference in my work and the works of Pierce isthat he created according to his time and experiences and I created according to my time and experiences.”
See also
African American Folk Art (Vernacular Art); Elijah Pierce
Arnett, Paul, and William Arnett, eds.
Souls Grown Deep: African-American Vernacular Art of the South,
vol. 1. Atlanta, Ga., 2000.Connell, E.Jane, and Nannett V.Maciejunes.
Elijah Pierce: Woodcarver.
Columbus, Ohio, 1992.Pass, Laura E.
Flying Free: Twentieth-Century Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Ellin and Baron Gordon.
Williamsburg, Va., 1998