5 Birmingham artists you need to know, including the designer of the Living Wall at the Birmingham Airport

One of the 5 Birmingham artists is Murray Johnston. While she usually makes quilts, she worked with a team out of Vancouver to design a "Living Wall" at the Birmingham Airport.
“Earth, Wind, and Water: the Landscape of Alabama” in progress at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Photo by Murray Johnston

As one of America’s most affordable cities, it’s no surprise Birmingham is home to a vibrant community of artists. Today, we’re introducing you to an eclectic group of artists who live, work, and play in the Magic City.

The five are: visual artist Artes Hicks, sculptor and fabricator Adam Bodine, needlepoint portrait artist Leanna Leithauser Lesley, pet painter (and comedian) Chris Davis, and quilt artist Murray Johnston. Read on to learn more about them, what they love about being an artist in Birmingham and where to follow them or find their work.

1. Visual artist Artes Hicks

Self portrait of Artes Hicks, one of 5 Birmingham artists whose work can be seen around town
Self portrait. Photo by Artes Hicks

Artes Hicks is a Montevallo grad whose work has been featured in and won awards at Art Walk, Huntsville’s Panoply Arts Festival, and in The Birmingham Times.


Artes Hicks is one of 5 Birmingham artists whose work can be seen around town.
“Dirty Minds Series #9.” Photo by Artes Hicks

Artes’ most recent work is a series called “Dirty Minds.” Where some of us might hide in a corner feeling bad about being called offensive words, Artes decided to make art out of words that “represent different aspects of my identity.”

She created a series of 13 prints featuring offensive words “in a way that softens the blow of the words while still presenting them boldly.” She wants audiences to come to their own conclusions.

Follow Artes on Instagram @IdentiPrints or find her—and some exciting new projects she’s working on—at shows around town.


2. Sculptor and fabricator Adam Bodine

Adam Bodine is one of 5 Birmingham artists you'll want to get to know. Here he is in his studio.
Scultpor Adam Bodine in his studio. Photo by Erika Bodine

Adam Bodine, a graduate of Alabama School of Fine Arts and UAB, specializes in sculpture and large scale installations. In his work, Bodine “emphasizes craft, pride, tradition, and the hand-made.”

“I draw on the same sources of imagination, experimentation, commitment and vigor of artists, inventors, scientists and instigators of the past and present.”

Adam Bodine is one of 5 Birmingham atists you'll want to get to know. Here's his latest piece.
“Not For Sale,” on exhibit at the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark Museum. Photo by Erika Bodine

His latest piece is on exhibit at the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in the lobby of the museum. Called “Not for Sale,” it references his “return to art making . . .[after] a three-year haitus from art.”


About being an artist in Birmingham, he loves the “city’s rich history, and the beautiful relics from its industrial heyday.”

Find Adam’s work at www.adambodine.com or follow his fabrication business on Instagram @bodinestudios.

3. Needlepoint portrait artist Leanna Leithauser Lesley

Leanna Leithauser Lesley is one of 5 Birmingham artists. She fuses needlepoint and jazz.
Leanna Leithauser Lesley at work. Photo from the artist’s website

Roebuck Springs artist Leanna Leithauser Lesley adopted Birmingham as her home 23 years ago, and has never looked back. Her art is a fusion of needlepoint and jazz.


Leanna Leithauser Lesley – We Have the Freedom to Rise Above Our Dark Past , 2018. Photo by Paul Barrett

“Birmingham needs your commitment. You can grow with this city instead of walking into a city that’s already done and trying to make a space for yourself in it.”

Leanna Leithauser Lesley

Lesley has an exhibit opening January 31 at the Steffen Thomas Museum in Madison, Georgia, and a second exhibit opening on February 8 at the Madison Cultural Arts Center for Black History Month. Find her work on her website or follow her on Instagram @needlepointfaces

4. Pet portrait artist (and comedian) Chris Davis

Chris Davis is one of 5 Birmingham artists you want to get to know.
Christopher Davis and his art. Photo by a friend

Chris Davis graduated from Carver High School and studied at Lawson State before graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design.

From his first holiday bazaar at Bottletree, a pet portrait business named “Drawdog” was born.


Chris Davis is one of 5 Birmingham artists you want to get to know. Here's a piece he calls "Mossy Dog"
“Mossy Dog,” from Dog and No Pony Show. Photo by Chris Davis

When he’s not making art, you can find him performing with Ugly Baby Improv Company and etc. (Extemporaneous Theatre Company).

Plus, he hosts Fresh Ground Comics, a monthly stand-up show at Urban Standard. In fact, he’d like to invite Bham Now’s readers to join him tonight for this month’s show.

Find Drawdog pet portraits on Facebook. Follow him on Instagram @chrisdavisdoesstuff. Or, find his work at Naked Art, and at shows around town.


5. Quilt artist Murray Johnston

Murray Johnston is one of the 5 Birminghm artists you want to get to know. Here's her "quilt maquette" for the living wall at the airport.
Quilt maquette. Photo by Gary Tramontina

Murray Johnston’s been a self-taught quilt artist for more than 35 years.

A few years ago, she worked on her most exciting project yet—a 14×100 foot “living wall” depicting the landscape of Alabama at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth Airport.

Murray Johnston is one of 5 Birmingham artists whose work you want to know. Here's her "living wall" at the Birmingham Ariport.
“Earth, Wind, and Water: the Landscape of Alabama” at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Photo by Murray Johnston

She loved every minute of this collaborative project. She got to design the wall while a team from Vancouver picked the plants and did the installation.


Now that it’s up, it grows and changes as the plants grow.

You can find the “Living Wall” at the airport, provided you have a ticket, since it’s on the other side of security, or check out Johnston’s work on her website.


Now that we’ve introduced you to these five artists, it’s your turn, Birmingham. Who are some of your favorite local artists? Tell us in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.


Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference