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About Michael Meads and Bent, Not Broken

Michael Wayne Meads was born in 1966 in Anniston, Alabama, on the southernmost slope of the

Blue Ridge Mountains. He earned a BFA from Auburn University in 1987, and a MFA from State

University of New York at Albany in 1990. In the early 1990's Meads returned to his native

Alabama, maintaining a studio near the rural community of Eastaboga.

Meads has developed a style as a painter, draftsman and photographer that expresses a deeply

personal narrative filtered through the lens of classical themes and a deep sense of place. From

his rural studio, Meads crafted an intimate visual narrative of Alabama. The surviving Alabama

work offers a glimpse into a South hidden to outsiders – one where tenderness and vulnerability

are revealed in the midst of poverty and violence.

Like many young men born in the Bible Belt, New Orleans held a deep allure to Meads from an

early age. “When I was a boy I remember my father listening to the radio broadcasts of a ‘hellfire

and brimstone’ Baptist minister preaching from Bourbon Street. Even at that young age I knew

there was something about New Orleans that was enticingly forbidden as my father would warn

me repeatedly to never go to that wicked city,” he recalls. He moved with his partner to the

Crescent City in 1998, fulfilling a dream and deepening a relationship with a place that has served

as setting, character and muse for most of his work since. Meads further developed his art

through both subject and medium in New Orleans. He drew from the culture and individuals

around him – from the bars of the French Quarter to the ritual and history of carnival. He became

a New Orleanian. He also became a master draughtsman.

His first job in New Orleans was as a concierge at the Saint Charles Inn. It was here that he daily

executed pen-and-ink drawings from behind the front desk, documenting the complicated and

often bizarre environment of his adopted city. He later served as chair of the art department at

Holy Cross School, an institution steeped in history and tradition, and a place that had a lasting

effect on his life and work.

In August 2005, the floodwaters from the breach of the Federal Levee System in New Orleans

following Hurricane Katrina filled Mead’s home and studio. Most of his life’s work – including the

hand-made works as well as the photographs – were destroyed. Returning to the city in 2007,

Meads quickly realized that there was still much healing to be done before he could live in his

adopted home again. Choosing the arid, isolated environment of the high desert as the place to

heal, in 2009 Meads moved to northern New Mexico, where he continues to work today.

- Bradley Sumrall, Curator of Collections, Ogden Museum of Southern Art

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