Notable faces from mesmerizing words

Culverhouse opens show at Athens Arts

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The old saying has it that “a picture is worth a 1,000 words.” In the case of Bryce Culverhouse’s striking portraits of famous people, the detailed, over-sized portraits he creates are literally created from “1,000 words” and many, many more. All the words composing the face were spoken or written by the portrayed person.

As Culverhouse describes it, “I decided to develop a new style of art based solely on letter forms that create images.” Even though from a distance a viewer sees striking, almost three-dimensional images of recognizable people from public life, up close, one sees not brush or pencil strokes but letters of the alphabet forming words. Culverhouse selects from important speeches or letters the person wrote, and with those words literally constructs a face.

That in itself seems to be an almost impossible feat, and yet Culverhouse also achieves the remarkable effect of giving viewers an experience of history and a chance to hear the subject’s words along with the visual experience.

“Each piece is meant to be read as well as viewed for its visual value,” he said.

To date Culverhouse has limited his subject matter to portraits of famous people and has mostly restricted his palate to greyscale values on colored backgrounds. Recently, though, he has begun “exploring color palates to increase the scope of [his] technique” as in his portrait of Frida Kahlo which will be part of the Athens Arts exhibition.

One of Culverhouse’s Mount Rushmore portraits (he’s done all four presidents) was selected for the Athens Arts 2019 national show *[Untitled]. That monumental and arresting portrait of Theodore Roosevelt not only won a prize but was one of the first pieces sold. To appreciate the scale of this work, it has taken Culverhouse three trips to Crawfordsville to deliver the portraits of Frida Kahlo, Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Leonard Cohen, Prince (“the Artist Formerly Known as Prince”), George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to the gallery. The gathered group makes for a remarkable display in Athens Arts’ Fishero Gallery.

Like many another artist, the Brownsburg resident answered to the demands of making a living for decades of his adult life. While Culverhouse knew early on that his passions and gifts were artistic ones (he attended the Kendall College of Art and Design), he was able to turn that training into a distinguished career as a graphic designer, an art director and a creative director.

Throughout those years as he honed his skills, excelled in his craft, and pursued his passion for American history and his curiosity about artists’ and musicians’ lives and works, he never lost track of his own desire to create for himself. The strong interest he had developed for typography while a student at Kendall showed him the way. Simultaneously, his notable graphic design work distinguished him within his professional field. During a 25-year period, Culverhouse received over 22 gold and numerous silver ADDYS (American Advertising Awards) including two ADDY Best of Shows for outstanding achievement.

A reception for the artist will be held via Facebook Live at 6 p.m. Monday. All are invited to “attend” online to meet the artist, “tour” his work, and to ask questions. Culverhouse’s work will be on display at Athens Arts until Aug. 8.

The Gallery is open on Thursdays and Saturdays for live viewing between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and by appointment. Email the director (director@athensartsgallery.com) or call the gallery at 765-362-7455 to book a personal tour. We welcome you to come downtown to enjoy these marvelous portraits face-to-face. Athens Arts’ volunteer shopkeepers follow CDC cleaning, distancing and masking guidelines. Visitors are encouraged to do the same.

Athens Arts is at 113 N. Washington St. and is a non-profit that offers art exhibits and educational experiences to the community. Currently more than a dozen local artists are artist-members of Athens Arts and their work is on display and for sale in the gallery.

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