The absence of epic stories and created worlds, in both galleries and museums, told through the eyes of minorities is a driving reason for Roger Allan Cleaves artistic pursuits. Cleaves feels that art not only has an aesthetic purpose but that art serves an historic function as a record of the times. His studio practice drives to define his unique perspective on society through visual storytelling so that the legacy of this generations creative minds is comprehensive and diverse. His canons for art include ingenuity and the amount of power the art conveys with its message.

In his work he strives to share his experiences of contemporary life in the southeastern region of the United States. Born in Memphis, TN, Cleaves grew up admiring the imaginative worlds created in classical literary works, animation, and graphic novels. In these art forms he enjoyed how the artist managed to juggle innovative visual devices and still speak about the highs and lows of society.

 His art education introduced him to abstraction which he felt embodied most of his formal interest. In efforts to include his social concerns along with the free form of expression that abstraction provided, Cleaves began following a path that explored abstract figuration early in his formative years.

In his works one will notice iconic symbols, a propensity for world building and storytelling, a dialogue with U.S. history, and a conversation with art history’s titans. He works with a wide array of materials, both traditional and digital, but sees the world through the lens of painting.

Cleaves academic education began at the University of Memphis where he received his Bachelors of Fine Art (BFA). In Cleaves junior year at the University of Memphis he was one of twelve students from across the nation, the first ever from the Memphis art program, to be selected by Yale to attend their prestigious Yale Norfolk Summer Residency. After earning his BFA Cleaves chose to make art for a year before applying to graduate school. During that year he was selected to be the inaugural spotlighted artist for Memphis’s first River Arts Festival.

Cleaves would later go on to receive fellowship offers from top art programs from around the country but selected a full fellowship offer from  the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he earned his Masters of Fine Arts. While at the University of Wisconsin, on two occasions, Cleaves work was featured in Manifest International Drawing Publications. While at the University of Wisconsin Cleaves began showing his work nationally and is part of private collections across the globe including countries such as Russia, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Cleaves now lives and works in Southaven, Mississippi. He has locally worked as an instructor in both the public and private sector. Currently Cleaves is writing a fictional story that investigates social themes and is creating artworks based on his narrative.






2008-2011 University of Wisconsin-Madison, Masters of Fine Arts

2007 University of Memphis: Memphis, Tennessee, Bachelor of Fine Arts,

2006 Yale University, Yale Norfolk Summer School for the Arts


2017 National Endowment For the Arts Grant, Mississippi Arts Commission
2010 Graduate Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin at Madison

2010 Lois G. Roberts Scholarship, University of Wisconsin at Madison

2009 Lotterman Fellowship, University of Wisconsin at Madison

2008 Graduate Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin at Madison

2007 River Arts Festival Invitational, Memphis, TN

2007 24th Annual AMUM University of Memphis Merit Award

2006 Ellen Battell Stoekel Fellowship, Yale Summer School for the Arts

Monsters Marks- Group Exhibition Art Museum University of Memphis, Memphis, TN Curator Sherry CM Lindquist
A World Away – Group Exhibition Mississippi Library Commission, Jackson, MS

The Forget Me Nots- Solo Exhibition, Marshall Arts, Memphis, TN

The Art of Science Exhibition  -Group Exhibition , Memphis, TN

Two of a Kind – Group Exhibition – Show Pen Residency, Denver, Colorado
Lost Boys – Solo Exhibition - Material Art Space, Memphis, TN
 Radio – Group Exhibition Pink Factory, Madison WI
Material Anthology Show – Group Exhibition- Memphis, TN Curated by Hamlett Dobbins
Sick And Twisted – Group Exhibition – Showpen Residency Denver Colorado, Curated by Donald Fondness
A Dozen or Something Twenty Somethings, Group Exhibition- Dean Jenson Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
The Magic Hour, Solo Exhibition -Art Loft Gallery, Madison Wisconsin

Uncompromised, Group Exhibition -Gelsy Verna Gallery, Madison Wisconsin

Strong Combinations, Electric Earth Gallery Space, Madison Wisconsin



Triple Crown, Art Loft Gallery, Madison Wisconsin
Imaginary Friends, Common Wealth Gallery, Madison Wisconsin

24th International Juried Show Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Juror Susan Kismaric, Summit, NJ

Forward,  Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago IL

15 Seconds,  Art Lofts Gallery, Madison Wisconsin


It’s My First Time, 7th Floor Gallery, Madison,WI

A Class of Hicks, Memphis College of Art Main Gallery, Memphis, TN
UW Madison Group Exhibition , The Priebe Gallery , Oshkosh, Wisconsin


Ties that Bind, Marshall Arts Gallery, Memphis,TN

New Kids on the Block, Project Lodge Galley, Madison, WI2007

AMUM 24th Annual Juried Student Show, Juror Gail Roberts

University of Memphis BFA Thesis show, Jones Gallery Memphis, TN

This is Not an Exit First Congregation Gallery, Memphis TN

RiverArts Festival Invitational, Jay Etkin Gallery Memphis, TN


Yale-Norfolk Student Show, Norfolk, Connecticut

Head Cases, AMUM caseworks

Fed Ex Forum presents New Talent, Fed Ex Forum HQ Exhibition, Memphis, TN

Art in the Park, University of Memphis, Theatrical and Fine Art collaboration.

Best of Class of 2006, Lantana Project Organization, Memphis, TN

AMUM 22nd Annual Student Show University of Memphis, AMUM, University of Memphis



2018  Zemtsova, Maria. ArtMaze Magazine Spring Issue 7. Art Maze Press, 2018
 Curated by Benjamin Sutton
2013  Derrick Buisch. RADIO RADIO, Baltimore Zine Project, 2013
2011 Franz, Jason. International Drawing Annual 6. Manifest Press, 2011
2009 Franz, Jason. International Drawing Annual 4. Manifest Press, 2009.