A resident of Lynchburg, Virginia, Arriyan Peagler is an innovative woodcarver and printmaker who has envisioned himself as an aspiring artist since his early childhood. Arriyan began to focus his creative energies during his teenage years in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, submitting numerous award-winning pieces to art shows and competitions. He then refined his artistic talents at Morehouse College in Atlanta, obtaining a B.A. in Fine Art in 2003 and selling his first woodcarving and relief print at his senior exhibition. Determined to find a practical application for his creativity, Mr. Peagler, earned a Masters of Landscape Architecture degree from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana in 2008, completing a thesis project that explored the use of sculptural landforms in a healing garden environment. After graduation, he worked briefly as a designer at landscape architecture firms in Virginia Beach and Lynchburg. However, due to a shortage of design work in the struggling economy, he abandoned the landscape architecture profession to pursue his passion for woodcarving as a full-time career, even at the risk of becoming a starving artist.
Although Mr. Peagler conforms to accepted woodcarving practices, he utilizes his unique perspective to shine a new light on the characters of traditional folklore via the medium of wood sculpture. As a child, he was fascinated by nursery rhymes, Aesop’s Fables, and fairytales from the Brothers Grimm. In the ensuing years, he has continued to be intrigued by the ways in which such folklore has been reshaped and retold in books and movies for a modern audience. As a result, Mr. Peagler believes that the stories and characters from our collective youth can be extracted from their traditional European or Indian canvases and redrawn with a much more diverse spectrum of colors to re-envision our childhood fantasies in an unfamiliar environment and thereby bring new meaning to old tales. To bring his vision to life, Arriyan primarily sculpts hardwoods including walnut and African mahogany, and prefers to use traditional hand carving tools, palm gouges, and a wooden mallet to gain a more intimate relationship with the raw material of his work. Once he is finished carving, his sculptures are sanded and/or painted for a smooth finish to bring new life and character to a once living medium. An example of his work is shown below, which primates reinterpret the story of Old Mother Hubbard for a new generation.
African inspired themes are of greatest interest to Mr. Peagler as he consciously uses lemurs and other primates along with people indigenous to Africa in his sculptures. He hopes to add character and diversity to each carving. Additionally, it is his desire to inspire children and adults to think outside of the traditional and dream beyond their wildest imaginations.