The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

2/19/21

KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON UPCOMING GUEST APPEARANCE ON THE PBS CARTOON ARTHUR


 KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON UPCOMING GUEST APPEARANCE ON THE PBS CARTOON ARTHUR

I so so honored to have been selected to appear at a guest on the Children’s PBS Cartoon “Arthur”. I am pictured here with one of the Arthur Kids George at the Opening of my exhibition that actually shows my real work.
“George Scraps His Sculpture” will be premiering on PBS KIDS and the PBS KIDS Video App on Wednesday, March 10th!
Firstly I would like to thank the shows creators ,many thanks to Marc Brown and His Artist wife, Laurene.
The producers Deborah, Geoff and the others were simply amazing to work with. I had a bit of input on a few surprising moments during the segment. But most of all this was not only an honor but a learning exp and fun to boot.
On March the 1st; Arthur’s media team will release more information during their media blitz. Stay tuned and please check your local PBS listings for show times.
These sculptures are currently on display at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough, NH,
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7/22/20

kevin Blythe. Sampson Adding to the Story of Racial Justice Through Community Art

https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2020/07/21/adding-story-racial-justice-through-community-art?fbclid=IwAR0nPmoSzedGIF-oPaAyp0lgSmHBGoMXVpQv1z84nwQKej2Rpvxlhcynpn8

Adding to the Story of Racial Justice Through Community Art


Kneeling in the circular nave of Union Chapel, artist-in-residence Kevin Sampson worked on his latest community sculpture, drawing inspiration from African American folklore and the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece is an ornate assemblage built from the base of a small wooden boat that tells the story of racial justice, past and present.
The sculpture, constructed with the help of Mr. Sampson’s former student and documentary photographer Cesar Melgar, is part of a week-long community art project sponsored by the Vineyard Trust. Mr. Sampson, whose other assemblage sculptures are being showcased at the nearby Mariposa Museum for its Freedom Song summer exhibit, opened the chapel event up to the public last weekend, inviting visitors to enter the space as he worked.
Leaning over the piece, Mr. Sampson explained that the sculpture was inspired by the legend of the Flying Africans—an oral narrative about Igbo slaves who drowned themselves in the swamps of Georgia to avoid returning to slavery. But the story doesn’t end there, he said. According to myth’s retelling, the slaves did not drown, but instead grew wings and flew back to Africa.
Mr. Sampson’s sculpture uses the legend of the Flying Africans to comment on the current national moment.
Work was created with help from people in the community, who brought found objects to the artist. — Jeanna Shepard
“The Flying African will become a metaphor for the Black Lives Matter movement, powered by youth who can no longer accept the failings of a society they are to inherit,” he says in the project’s mission statement. “Like the Igbos in the legend, they will don wings and sail toward change.”
Standing just above eye-level, the sculpture is replete with striking objects and images. The base of the boat, gifted to the project by the museum, is dotted with figurines of different shapes and colors, and its masts are laden with beads.
“The piece and the materials kind of directs you where it’s going to go,” said Mr. Sampson, whose assemblage sculptures have been showcased at museums around the northeast, including the Mystic Seaport Museum.
“I don’t like decorative art,” he said. “Everything I do, I try to have some kind of theme that’s relevant.”
For this piece, Mr. Sampson asked community members to bring objects from around the Island that speak to the sculpture’s message of racial equality—from spiritual objects, to protest signs, to objects that evoke childhood memories. Throughout the week, Islanders brought in items by the box-full, said Mr. Sampson.
The Flying Africans sculpture is the most recent chapter in Mr. Sampson’s career as a civil rights sculptor. His work, political and community-oriented by nature, has been informed by his background as the son of a civil rights activist as well as his time working in the Newark police force as the first African American composite sketch artist.
Sculpture is being displayed at the Carnegie in Edgartown — Jeanna Shepard
“I’m a civil rights baby... I was marching on picket lines as soon as I could walk,” said Mr. Sampson, remembering the civil rights giants, like Shirley Chisholm and Malcolm X, that he met throughout his childhood. “I’m not marching anymore, I’m done and my feet hurt. So this is my way of being involved, of making a statement.”
As with all of Mr. Sampson’s work, community engagement was a driving force in his art. Mr. Sampson spent the days leading up to the sculpture’s assembly exploring the Island with his cousin getting a feel for the community.
When the time came to begin work, he opened his sessions up to the public, inviting visitors to ask questions and to provide input.
“Everything I do is based on my community,” he said. “Once you involve the community, it becomes a communal piece and people feel ownership to it. That’s better than having an outsider coming in.”
While the finished sculpture will be showcased at the Carnegie in Edgartown before heading to the Mariposa’s sister museum in Peterborough New Hampshire in October, for Mr. Sampson the real art lies in the process.
“I’m totally process orientated,” he explained. “While I’m working on it, it’s very important, but once it’s done, I don’t ever want to see it again.”
Stepping out for a cigarette onto the rainy front steps of Union Chapel on Friday, he reflected on his vision for the finished piece.
“The way it is now, nobody listens to anybody. I want to create a dialogue so that people actually talk about what’s going on. Not talk at each other, but actually talk about what’s going on,” he said. “Everyone [on all sides] thinks they’re right, but the truth is in the middle.”
The sculpture is on display at the Carnegie from now until early October.

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7/21/20

The Legend of the Flying Africans ...Black lives Matter





Photos by Cesar Melgar
I wanted to create homage to the Black Live Matter Movement, bypassing all of the dialogue and head straight towards the spirit of the movement. These are mystical times and I believe a true fight between good and evil is under way. Those young people protesting all across the world have now donned the wings of the Africans, who refused to be subjugated.
“Kevin will create a sculpture incorporating objects found on the Vineyard or donated by the community. Its theme will be The Legend of the Flying Africans from African American oral history. In the sculpture, the Flying Africans will become a metaphor for the #Black Lives Matter movement, powered by youth who can no longer accept the failings of a society they are to inherit. Like the Igbos in the legend, they will don wings and sail toward change and a home offering a better future and new normal. Kevin Sampson is a found object assemblage artist from Ironbound, NJ. Raised in a civil rights family, his first career as a police detective in Newark gave him “a unique perspective on the human condition.”
This will be moved shortly to the Carnegie Museum...on the Vineyard.
 

7/7/20

Wednesday, July 15, 5PM: FREEDOM SONGS: ARTIST TALK with KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON.

Wednesday, July 15, 5PM: FREEDOM SONGS: ARTIST TALK with KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON.
Wednesday, July 15, 5PM In this virtual talk, Kevin Sampson, a featured artist in the Mariposa Museum’s exhibit Freedom Songs will discuss his interactive, found object assemblage being created at the Union Chapel from July 12-19th. Kevin will create a sculpture incorporating objects found on the Vineyard or donated by the community. Its theme will be The Legend of the Flying Africans from African American oral history. In the sculpture, the Flying Africans will become a metaphor for the #Black Lives Matter movement, powered by youth who can no longer accept the failings of a society they are to inherit. Like the Igbos in the legend, they will don wings and sail toward change and a home offering a better future and new normal. Objects from the community as well as found objects, will be used (disinfect prior, please).
Kevin Sampson is a found object assemblage artist from Ironbound, NJ. Raised in a civil rights family, his first career as a police detective in Newark gave him “a unique perspective on the human condition.”
Admission is free. Email tthorpe@clamsnet.org to sign up and get the Zoom invitation. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Chilmark Public Library. For more information, please call 508-645-3360.

7/1/20


Public
Kevin Sampson's community art project (organized by Mariposa Musuem) sponsored by the Vineyard Trust!
Kevin Blythe Sampson.
Artist in Residence at Union Chapel, Oaks Bluffs Martha Vinyard
During the week of July 12-19, civil rights artist and former police officer Kevin Sampson will lead a community arts project in Union Chapel as part of the summer 2020 Freedom Songs exhibition at the neighboring Mariposa Museum.
Sponsored by Vineyard Trust and organized by the Mariposa Museum & World Cultural Center in Oak Bluffs, which is dedicated to exploring America's multicultural history through the creativity of diverse artists, Freedom Songs features found art assemblage sculptures from Kevin Sampson as well as Block Prints of Black American Spirituals by 96 year old Maine artist Ashley Bryan, and contemporary quilts from the And Still We Rise exhibit by Women of Color Quilters Network.
Sampson was the first African American sketch artist in the United States. Raised in a civil rights household, his work reflects his social consciousness and explores themes of African American history and identity, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as other ideas. His work often incorporates ships and other nautical imagery.
Sampson considers himself to be a community-based artist, and this special project will allow for significant interaction between the public and the artist as well as opportunities for people to contribute objects that he will incorporate into a sculpture.
The piece will be entitled: The Legend of the Flying Africans, drawing on a story from African American oral history. Sampson will use this to create a metaphor for the struggle against institutional racism, poverty, sexism, and the powerful effects of the black lives movement on those who struggle, protest, and fight for the rights of all humanity.
The work will have two primary components:
A Carousel that, like the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, represents hope, joy, change, and ultimately the face of transcendence; and a Boat that, in contrast, represents the ill wind blowing across America. In between these objects will be things that represent the journey between adversity and change, including references to those recently killed by police, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and current uprisings.
The project will take place July 12-19 at Union Chapel and will be open to the public from 12-3 pm daily. Admission is free.

10/15/19

Kevin Blythe sampson Interview on Yale U radio with By Brainard Carey October 15, 2019

Kevin Blythe sampson Interview on Yale U radio with By

8/6/19

CONCLUSION OF THE SUMMER SCHOOL OF THE 2019 BIOURBANISM A ARTENA

http://www.bioarchitettura.it/s7-notizie/biourbanism-summer-school-artena-rm/



CONCLUSION OF THE SUMMER SCHOOL OF THE 2019 BIOURBANISM A ARTENA

The National Institute of Bio-architecture was a partner of the 4th Summer School of the International Society of Biourbanism (ISB), "Designing a Home of Language" (Artena, Italy, 13-20 July 2019).
The work began with an analysis of recognition of the problematic situation of communication between man and man and their environment. This includes the effects of the impoverishment of human relations, conflicts, war, natural and built environmental disturbances, the financialization of the economy and the objectification of labor, climate change and forced mass migration. There is therefore the need to find solutions through forms of life based on feedback through multiple communicative settlements. To get out of the "Great Transformation" (K. Polanyi), we see the importance of many small cities that respect their traditions and cultures with respect to the life forms of the industrial and global metropolises.
An international group of scholars, artists and activists from Syria, Italy, Greece, Finland, Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, Romania, Slovenia, the Netherlands, India and Saudi Arabia have worked "from within" Artena, Italy. They met and worked for a week with the aim of formulating a logical model, an example and a typology that can be emulated in other parts of the planet because Artena offers a self-sufficient urban structure.
For the National Institute of Bio-architecture, Nando Bertolini spoke about the normative relationship and built up over the centuries and pointing out that the beautiful Italy, famous in the world, is not in compliance with the current rules. Stefano Serafini and Sergio Los have also actively participated and are part of our scientific committee. Daniela Parisi, Lazio coordinator and president of the Rome section, participated in some events together with our historical partner Francesco Parisi.
The summer school consisted of three components: three experiences were conducted:
1) a discussion and study seminar under the direction of Prof. Sergio Los;
2) The construction of a common sauna with the help of the locals under the direction of Prof. Marco Casagrande; 3) Artistic and cultural activities, including an art exhibition at the local Archaeological Museum of Artena, art installations, conferences and book presentations.

1. The seminar
The results of the seminar indicate that a biourban system can arise if:
- promotes an environment in which culture governs the economy and not vice versa, as happens today;
- belongs to a totality of time that goes from the past to the future;
- promotes a competitive lifestyle and improves mutual aid and cooperation above competition;
- opposes the domain of techno-sciences and favors art as knowledge and not as aesthetic entertainment;
- builds peace, unlike the industrial city, which provides for competitiveness, conflicts and, ultimately, war;
- it is multi-functional and autonomous in providing energy, food and basic services;
- is able to manage and govern himself as a multicellular organism;
- is based on a local economy and circulates through specific and designed tools;
- reconnects people to their place, landscape and bioclimatic specificity;
- improves environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability;
- is based on biological dynamics as opposed to technological dynamics;
- it is a shared responsibility among its inhabitants;
- it is compact to encourage interaction and social communication;
- promotes sustainable and respectful accessibility and transport.

2. The sauna

The sauna was built freely from scratch, looking for its place first, then finding the building material available and finally the cooperative workforce between the participants and the local citizens. It was found a room carved into the rock under a central square, measuring 27 square meters, has a wooden plank floor suspended on a layer of stones and is divided into two areas: one dedicated to kiwis (stove) and the practice of sauna and the other to change clothes and wash. It faces north, with a splendid view of the valley and an olive garden. It was built by hand and with simple tools (mainly saws and manual hammers). A social dynamic of cooperation, excitement and pride among the inhabitants of Artena has been triggered ("The sauna has shown us that if artenesi come together, they can do anything from nothing") and a discussion on how to manage a good that is not neither private nor public, but common ("Who will take care of the sauna?", "How should we regulate its access and keep its free use?", etc.).
3. Artistic and cultural activities

The main conferences were held by Marwa Al-Sabouni, Ghassan Jansiz, Marco Casagrande, Sergio Los, Fotios Katsaros, Sara Bissen, Robin Monotti Graziadei, Natasha Pulitzer, Kevin Blythe Sampson, Nando Bertolini, Fabio Rampelli, Stefano Serafini, Sabrina Fantauzzi, Matteo Riccelli, Melek Aksoy and Paolo Masciocchi. Yeter Tan and Zana Kibar of Göç İzleme Derneği presented the documentary "Sur: Ax û Welat" on urbananicida. Kevin Blythe Sampson has created a site-specific sculpture entitled "Time Is On My Side", located next to the outer wall of the sauna. Beju Dudali left his work, "Dudali", which dominates the valley from the terrace of the Mulo Brigante. Cesar Melgar explored Sabaudia with his photographic lens. Robin Monotti Graziadei provided a reading of Pasolini and Malaparte. Sara Bissen played A Forest of Words with Melek Aksoy, who started Plato's pharmacy, presenting her printed book for the occasion. The leaves of Aksoy Çatal Hüyük and Bissen remain in Artena as the original alphabetic constellations of Serafini's contribution "Roots in the Sky".

The exhibition Ultra Civitatis Ruinam - Beyond Urban Destruction. Pian della Civita. Montefortino. Artena. Stories of Urban Destruction, Resurgence and Ryzhomes was held at ARTEMUSA - Archaeological Museum of Artena "Roger Lambrechts" from 13 to 16 July 2019. Presented by Massimiliano Valenti, urban planner, archaeologist and museum director, selected works by international artists and local guests the artists were exposed among the archaeological finds, with works by: Kevin Blythe Sampson, Maxim Atayants, Cesar Melgar, Mihaela Negrii, Beju Dudali, Daniela Ricasoli and Iros Bianchi. The idea of ​​discussing the topic of urban destruction, memory and art will continue to collaborate with the museum. "Micro-space Untouched by Humans", by Tatjana Capuder Vidmar, will be exhibited in the coming months.

During the school the following books were launched: S. Bissen and S. Serafini, After Dark: the social value of sunlight in Artena through its urban codes, Artena 2019; S. Bissen, This Is Not Topsoil, Artena 2019; S. Los, Cities and landscapes as symbolic systems, Artena 2019; M. Aksoy, Plato's Pharmacy: My Memory Atlas I, The Landscape of the Soul, Istanbul 2019; I. Erdem, Y. Tan & Z. Kibar, Report on human rights violations against women and their experiences during the curfew and forced migration, Istanbul 2019.

The school is a product of the ISB and was designed, directed and managed by Stefano Serafini and Sara Bissen. The school has been entirely self-financed and is proud of its independence from any academic, political and economic institution, being open to any voice capable of discussing.
Participants include Eng. Jan Sufyan, Prof. Arch. Tatjana Capuder Vidmar, Arch. Christiaan Zandstra, Arch. Uğur Sağlam, Arch. Anu Mantsinen, Arch. Bas Oudenaarden, Arch. Emmaliisa Reinikainen, Arch. Gabriele Mundula and Arch. Nur Sipahioğlu who was involved in 22 hours of lessons, 25 hours of seminar and 8 hours of visits / excursions. Prof. Arch. Vibhavari Jani joined for two days. The journalist, Marlo Safi, attended the school to cover it for The National Review (U.S.A.).
The summer school was visited by the Vice President of the Italian Parliament, Fabio Rampelli, an architect interested in human-centered design, and by representatives of the Municipality of Artena, Augusto Angelini and Carlo Scaccia. Princess Nike Arrighi Borghese, artist, participated in her inauguration.
The activity of the summer school was reported by the following press organizations: The National Review, Elle Italia, La Nuova Tribuna, Rome Daily News, Policy Maker, AG Cult and Il Secolo d’Italia.
Several participants are currently working on developing the school's results in writing and in other forms. We expect interesting results to come from this experience, which more than one participant has defined as "life change".


5/22/19

Newark Artist Kevin Blythe Sampson and Cesar Melgar invited to teach in Rome we are raising Money so that we can attend

Newark Artist Kevin Blythe Sampson and Cesar Melgar invited to teach in Rome we are raising Money so that we can attend

https://www.gofundme.com/f/NEWARK-ARTIST-TAKE-ARTENA-ITALY-ROME?fbclid=IwAR1PDeusOyg-KVmRaxpE7bz0pqkcdTGSc1EkvDRd0YgmMmcTicdKCZbE2Fk
 ear family and friends,


I can’t tell you how honored and excited I am about being invited along with Cesar Melgar to teach this summer at The International Society of Biourbanism in Artena, Italy.

We have been invited along with thinkers, writers, architects, entrepreneurs, politicians, economists, citizens, activist’s artists and more, from all over the world.

We are there to create but also to represent our city and to learn more about the changing face of other cities all over the world and to receive and offer solutions.

Cesar has been invited to exhibit and to teach and I will be doing a little bit of everything including, giving talks, teaching and maybe building or creating some thing in or around the town of Artena which is suburb of Rome.

 They are paying for our flight, but we need help in paying for our lodging and expenses. Cesar and I would like to have the resources to take advantage of all that is offered and to be able to stay longer in Italy to continue to make art, photograph the experience and meet with other artists and collaborate.

We need your help to take the Newark flavor to Italy! Your support would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you in advance.


With love and gratitude,

5/14/19

Newark Artist raising money to attend and to teach at The International Society of Biourbanism in Artena, Italy.


 Newark Artist raising money to attend and to teach at The International Society of Biourbanism in Artena, Italy.

https://www.gofundme.com/NEWARK-ARTIST-TAKE-ARTENA-ITALY-ROME&rcid=r01-155788141685-7852cf8389e54754&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

I wanted to thank those who have already contributed to our gofundme to raise money so that we (Cesar Melgar) and I can attend the international gathering this summer given by The International Society of Biourbanism in Artena, Italy, (Rome
.
This is an on going fund raiser to help send us two Newark artist to Italy, were we will learn, teach and exhibit.
Thanks to those who have contributed and those who will....
Dear family and friends,

I can’t tell you how honored and excited I am about being invited along with Cesar Melgar to teach this summer at The International Society of Biourbanism in Artena, Italy.
We have been invited along with thinkers, writers, architects, entrepreneurs, politicians, economists, citizens, activist’s artists and more, from all over the world.
We are there to create but also to represent our city and to learn more about the changing face of other cities all over the world and to receive and offer solutions.
Cesar has been invited to exhibit and to teach and I will be doing a little bit of everything including, giving talks, teaching and maybe building or creating some thing in or around the town of Artena which is suburb of Rome.
They are paying for our flight, but we need help in paying for our lodging and expenses. Cesar Melgar and I would like to have the resources to take advantage of all that is offered and to be able to stay longer in Italy to continue to make art, photograph the experience and meet with other artists and collaborate.
We need your help to take the Newark flavor to Italy! Your support would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance.
With love and gratitude,
Kevin and Cesar

9/4/18

Kevin Blythe Sampson, Interview from Mystic Seaport Musuem


 Kevin Blythe Sampson, Interview from Mystic Seaport Musuem

https://youtu.be/NcZz5X4G3kM

Mystic Seaport
Published on Sep 4, 2018
This summer Mystic Seaport Museum inaugurated its artist residency program with leading American artist, Kevin Sampson of Newark, New Jersey. Beginning in June, Sampson was embedded at the museum, living aboard a vessel docked at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, and fully engaged with our community in the lead-up to an exhibition of his work. Sampson began his career as a police officer in New Jersey, and was the first African American composite police sketch artist in the United States. Following that career, he developed a unique artistic practice transforming found materials such as cement, bones, tiles, fabric, paints, and wood into powerful sculptures that speak to family, memory, and loss through the lens of the African American experience. Sampson feels a strong connection to maritime culture, stating, “my love of ships, salt, and the sea is limitless.” In addition to his existing work, Sampson made a new art installation while at the Museum, inspired by the Newark Ark of Kea Tawana, and using materials from Mystic Seaport Museum. Visitors were invited to watch the artist at work, and to engage with him as he drew the very fabric of the museum into a new and powerful vision of the American maritime experience. A selection of Sampson’s other works are on display in the C.D. Mallory building. The new artwork, entitled "USS Kye Kye Kule," joined the others in the gallery at the end of his residency.

6/12/18

Monument Man: Kevin Sampson in Residence C. D. Mallory Building Opening June 30, 2018


https://www.mysticseaport.org/locations/kevin-sampson-artist-in-residence/

 Its down to the wire, I am really looking forward to spending 3 weeks at the Mystic Seaport Museum, during the exhibition and residency.
I'll have the pleasure of staying on board the sailboat Resolution, a 56-foot (17-meter) Bristol Sloop. for three weeks.
Looking forward to playing a pirate.
Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and water

5/3/18

American Art: From the Outside In Alvin Hall interviews Kevin Blythe Sampson

 American Art: From the Outside In Alvin Hall interviews Kevin Blythe Sampson
BBC Radio 4

 Click to listen
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b0x2kk

Art collector and broadcaster Alvin Hall, examines how the dynamic work of African-American self-taught artists is gaining recognition from American institutions today - and how much more needs to be done to address this neglected canon.
Having to fight both the barriers of race and of operating outside the art world, self-taught African-American artists are still not always afforded as much recognition as their formally trained peers.
Groundbreaking exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art at The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is seeking to change this, positioning self-taught and outsider artists alongside one another and making reference to how self-taught artists inspired their formally trained peers. Alvin visits the exhibition and speaks to its curator, Lynne Cooke.
He explores the legacy of several key 20th century self-taught African-American artists and tells their life stories. Maxwell Anderson, the Director of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, explains the ongoing process of integrating their vast collection of African-American vernacular art from the South into museums' collections.
Alvin probes the difficulties around the term "self-taught" and its problematic alternatives "primitive" and "naïve". He considers how limiting categorising such a diverse range of art can be. Have so-called Outsiders become part of the mainstream?
Alvin also meets self-taught black artists working today. Have they noticed a shift in interest and representation? Informally trained artist Kevin Sampson, questions whether, in today's hyper-connected society, there is such a thing as "self-taught" anymore.
Writer and presenter: Alvin Hall
Additonal research: Alvin Hall and Louise Morris
Producers: Louise Morris and Andrew McGibbon
A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

1/11/18

Kevin Blythe Sampson is creating a mural for the OUTSIDER ART FAIR 2018

Kevin Blythe Sampson OUTSIDER ART FAIR 2018


I am honored and excited to be creating a Mural for the OUTSIDER ART FAIR 2018 Kevin Blythe Sampson & The Rusty Thorn Collective Manuel Acevedo, Cesar Melgar, James Wilson, Jerry Gant and Lauren Sampson.
Wide Open Arts is excited to announce that Kevin Sampson and the Rusty Thorn Collective will paint a 10 x 18 foot mural at the front entrance of the Metropolitan Pavilion in time for the opening of the Outsider Art Fair. The work will be titled
The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, but it Bends Towards Justice, after the 1965 Martin Luther King quote.
Sampson, a 63-year-old self-taught artist and ex-policeman from New Jersey, is represented by Cavin-Morris Gallery, and is the son of renowned activist Stephen Sampson (1919-2005). The artist noted, "I grew up in a household where many of the civil rights leaders of that time, visited, ate dinner and had amazing discussions around the family kitchen table. These included Dick Gregory, William Kunstler, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, and many more. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was one of my father's mentors who often had dinner with us."
Regarding this project for OAF Sampson remarked, "People don't only need pretty things that make them feel good, they need images that invest in their activism or inspire the creation of hope by action. You can only do this by the acknowledgement of current events that can be used to motivate and inspire."
The Rusty Thorn Collective is Manuel Acevedo, Cesar Melgar, James Wilson, Jerry Gant and Lauren Sampson.

9/15/16

Choosing Between a Folk Artist’s Story and His Work

Hyperallergic 

Choosing Between a Folk Artist’s Story and His Work

Ronald Lockett (1965–1998, Bessemer, Alabama) Rebirth Bessemer, Alabama 1987 Wire, nails, and paint on Masonite 12 x 18 1/2 x 1 1/2" Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation (Photo by Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio0
Ronald Lockett, “Rebirth” (1987), wire, nails, and paint on Masonite, 12 x 18 1/2 x 1 1/2 in, collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation (all photos by Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio)

Ronald Lockett believed in magic. So said sculptor Kevin Sampson during a talk in July at the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM), which is currently hosting a retrospective of Lockett’s work. The artist died in 1998 of AIDS-related pneumonia, so hearing Sampson say that Lockett believed that the objects he made with his hands had power beyond aesthetic allure makes sense. Being black and gay and male in the rural South — Bessemer, Alabama — one would have to stay under the radar, or, as Sampson put it, “keep to himself.”
But this may not be true. According the biographical essay by collector Paul Arnett on the website of Souls Grown Deep (his nonprofit foundation promoting many self-taught artists from the South), Lockett’s sexuality was questioned by many, and he had female sexual partners. See? I’ve already tumbled into the well of personal narrative that makes Lockett’s art eddy into a whirlpool of sentimentality, pity, and rage about the shrunken life chances of people like Lockett from the rural South, people who graduated from high school, but never learned a trade and who lived in their mother’s house their entire lives. This is the tension pulled taught by the contravening forces of the work, which has its own things to say, and the story of his life, and also the category in which we place Lockett. Is he a vernacular artist, or a craft artist; an outsider artist, or one who is self-taught? In this context, it feels unfair to say he died of “AIDS-related pneumonia.” I have to say “AIDS-related pneumonia at age 32” because this is true and a key part of his story, but I also need to put that aside for a moment to talk about his artwork.
Ronald Lockett (1965–1998, Bessemer, Alabama) Traps (Golden Bird) Bessemer, Alabama 1990 Chain-link fencing, branches, cut tin, industrial sealing compound, and found plastic bird and berries 48 x 48 x 4" Collection of Tinwood LLC, L2015.15.15 Photo by Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio
Ronald Lockett, “Traps (Golden Bird)” (1990), chain-link fencing, branches, cut tin, industrial sealing compound, and found plastic bird and berries, 48 x 48 x 4 in, collection of Tinwood LLC
Lockett takes some of the strategies I am familiar with, but imbues them with — there’s no other way to accurately say it — heart. Look at “Holocaust” (1988). He separates the story of that historic horror with two separate fields of color that then become the story and the meta-discursive comment on it. White skeletal bodies made of painted metal are tossed willy-nilly into the air of an utterly black setting and then, on the right side of the piece, demarcated by a change in color scheme, just green on the bottom and blue on top as if a new day had dawned. You can also see him reworking ideas in this show. “Rebirth” (1987) features a skeletal dog in painted tin that’s stark white on a black background and, to the right, another field of green grass, but this time bloodstained under a washy blue sky. Lockett has an intelligence with materiality and with drama that together make things matter, even if the history isn’t completely familiar. The revelations continue as you walk through the show. “Sacrifice” (1987) consists of a shelf of wood with a painted figure made of wire — a lone figure on a cross, clearly meant to refer to Christ, delineated from the cross itself by the use of white paint. The figure is both part of the structure and floating above it.
Homeless People Bessemer, Alabama 1989 Paint and wood on fiberboard 48 x 48 1/4 x 1 1/2" Collection of Ron and June Shelp, L2015.3.1 Photo by Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio
Ronald Lockett, “Homeless People” (1989), paint and wood on fiberboard, 48 x 48 1/4 x 1 1/2 in, collection of Ron and June Shelp
In the exhibition Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett, AFAM wants you to see the magic that Lockett supposedly believed in and brought to bear on nails, tin, tree branches, chicken wire, industrial sealing compound, plastic vents, charred wood, and the enamel and paint he could hardly afford at times. But is there any other way to talk about these works and convey Lockett’s spirit except by using terms like “magic”? It’s alchemy to change the basic ingredients that went into his artist’s cauldron into works of staggering feeling.
Fever Within Bessemer, Alabama 1995 Tin, colored pencil, and nails on wood 66 1/2 x 30 x 2" Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, L2015.2.1 Photo by Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio
Ronald Lockett, “Fever Within” (1995), tin, colored pencil, and nails on wood, 66 1/2 x 30 x 2 in, collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation (click to enlarge)
This exhibition asks you to do more work than most museum shows. Not only do you need to decide how to feel about the transformations Lockett accomplished, you also have to decide how to divide your attention between his story and his work. AFAM complicates this choice by simultaneously running the exhibition Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die in an adjacent hall, where Lockett’s work is paired with votive symbols and indigenous crafts of various tribes to make the point that this work has a performative aspect. It’s about calling forth another reality that the maker wants — perhaps needs — to experience in order to keep going in this one. Lockett says in a video housed in that second show, that when he loses himself he goes back to the work to “regain himself.” It’s awful to think he had nothing else but the objects made from his own hands to comfort him, but then you are astounded by a painting like “Civil Rights Marchers” (1988), with all its vicious, ugly swirls of red, black, and white, like blood leavening our entrenched racial antagonism.
All of these generative tensions make Lockett’s work worth seeing and spending time with. But don’t pity him; there’s no need. You’ll find Lockett’s hand working tin, wood, iron nails, and paint, working from deep desire for a conjuring that is its own healing salve.
Ronald Lockett "Untitled (Horse)" (c. 1987) Paint on wood with cut tin and nails 41 x 58 x 3" Collection of Tinwood LLC,
Ronald Lockett “Untitled (Horse)” (ca 1987), paint on wood with cut tin and nails, 41 x 58 x 3 in, collection of Tinwood LLC
Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett and Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die continue at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square, Upper West Side, Manhattan) through September 18.

8/6/16

Artist Kevin Sampson talks about his "Artship Olympia" installation "Arc of Renewal." On board the USS Olympia, Philly Seaport

Artist Kevin Sampson talks about his "Artship Olympia" installation "Arc of Renewal." On board the USS Olympia, Philly Seaport

With African-American art hot, Newark Museum showcases 'Modern Heroics'

There are all sorts of reasons why African-American art is the hottest thing on the market today, for both private collectors and museums, but the most compelling, of course, is the need to catch up. In 2000, for example, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston had precisely three oil paintings by African-Americans on display in its American wing. When Norman Lewis, the sole black artist among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, died in 1979, he was known to artists and students but rarely represented in survey exhibitions or textbooks. Critics said the occasional appearance of figural hints and "political" meaning in his work didn't quite fit any category.
In just the past three years, Lewis' work has been bought by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and, finally, by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. At the same time, the work of black artists both living and dead has rocketed up in value.
In 2013 David Hammons, who once stood in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art holding a cardboard box filled with snowballs labeled "African-American Art, 5 cents ea.," sold a crystal chandelier in the shape of a basketball hoop and backboard for $8 million, making him one of the highest-priced American artists in history.
And it's not just money--there's also growing institutional support. This September, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will finally open its doors on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
TR8.2016.1-1.jpgKenseth Armstead's "untitled (three ruffians killed beauty)" invokes 18th century mob violence with its tar and feathers. 
So this is a perfect time for the Newark Museum to open "Modern Heroics: 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum." Expressionism is a term, first used for French Fauves and German painters before World War I, for art that puts a higher value on emotion and a free use of color than more trained styles do. Many of the African-American artists in the Newark collection could plausibly be grouped under that term.
There's a Norman Lewis painting, "Carnival" (done in 1957, a bequest from the estate of Irene Wheeler in 2004), in "Modern Heroics" that suggests a thronging crowd carrying ominous crosses toward the viewer. In fact, this show of just 34 paintings and sculptures from the permanent collection, assembled by Curator of American Art Tricia Laughlin Bloom, has a lot of suddenly big names. Bob Thompson, Sam Gilliam, Romare Bearden, Thornton Dial, Sr., Purvis Young, to name a few. At the same time, "Modern Heroics" features absolutely contemporary art, like the huge, rhinestone-studded plywood picture by Camden-born Mickalene Thomas, "Landscape with Camouflage" (2012).
Not many art institutions can do that. "Modern Heroics" celebrates the 350th anniversary of the city of Newark's founding, but it especially celebrates the peculiarly far-sighted collecting policies of the city's unusual museum.
Because the museum John Cotton Dana founded in 1922 didn't wait till the 21st century to start collecting African-American art. The Newark Museum bought its first work by an African-American in 1929, a religious landscape by Henry Ossawa Tanner called "The Good Shepherd" (painted in 1922). Newark held its first group show of African-American artists in 1931, put together by the Harmon Foundation in Harlem. Ever since the '40s, the museum has hosted an increasingly regular series of important exhibitions of African-American art, in both group shows and one-person shows.
The museum collection now holds over 360 works of African-American art, many of them spectacular, like Emma Amos's seven-foot-wide "The Heavens Rain" (1990, an acrylic on linen framed with Kanga cloth and other African fabrics). Amos was born in Atlanta, but now lives and works in New York. "The Heavens Rain" shows people, books, even a horse falling through dark space; just off-center a black family, father, mother, and young son, cling together as they plunge. There's a faux-naïve quality to Amos' work that reminds of Outsider Art, enhancing her directness of vision. It's a haunting picture you don't have to explain to feel.
The Newark Museum bought its first work by an African-American in 1929, Henry Ossawa Tanner's "The Good Shepherd."
Kevin Sampson_Madjet.jpgNewark artist Kevin Sampson's "Madjet" looks like an ancient Egyptian reed boat made from stuff you'd find on a downtown street. 
As you might expect in a city that is one of the capitals of black life in American, Newark is also home to several of the artists here. Kevin Sampson's "Madjet" is a mock-Egyptian reed boat made from found objects, like the glass cabinet knob amidships, and "Madjet" (it's the name of a constellation) is the very first artwork in "Modern Heroics." Sampson keeps a studio in the city, and shows regularly in downtown galleries.
Gladys Barker Grauer, widely considered the doyenne of African-American art in Newark, has two paintings in "Modern Heroics." Kingston-born Shoshanna Weinberger, a specialist in the many manifestations of African-American hair, has a studio in Newark, too; installation artist Kenseth Armstead, who will be artist in residence at the Yaddo art colony this year, is a graduate of Gallery Aferro's residency program. In addition, Sampson, Emma Amos and Dmitri Wright all taught at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, which closed in 1997, but was the fulcrum for art in Newark for 115 years.
African-American art in Newark has for more than 40 years been a kind of materials art, part of the assemblage movement Newark's Willie Cole—missing from this show, though his giant woodcut "Stowage," made with an ironing board that looks like the schematic of a slave ship, is in a canonical Expressionist medium—helped lead. But there are younger practitioners, like the Newark-born and educated Chakaia Booker, who twists shredded car tires into iconic sculptures.
Or like Armstead's 2014 "untitled (three ruffians killed beauty)," a series of furring strips smeared with tar and feathers. It's a reference to 18th century mob violence, but it looks in this context like an abstract painting.
And that's what African-American artists often do—take a dominant style and give it a twist. Bob Thompson did it 50 years ago, repainting Western mythological pictures with an updated palette, as in his version of Tintoretto's "St. George and the Dragon" (1961), a gem of the collection. Before he died, Norman Lewis said it would take at least 40 years for the art world to realize that the touches that make African-American art not fit a category perfectly were a feature, not a bug.
He was just about right.
90.3reduced.jpgEmma Amos's "The Heavens Rain" suggests freedom from inhibitions to the artist, but is haunting nonetheless. 
Modern Heroics: 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
Where: The Newark Museum, 49 Washington St., Newark
When: Through Jan. 8. Open noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
How much: Adults $15, veterans and families with valid ID, students, seniors, $8, children under two free

7/29/16

The Many Terms in Our Continuum: ‘Outsider Art’




http://brutforce.com/many-terms-continuum-outsider-art/

The Many Terms in Our Continuum: ‘Outsider Art’

As Priscilla Frank and Kevin Sampson aptly point out, the term ‘Outsider Artist’ is offensive to some subgroups of artists within the art world that has manifested itself outside of the establishment. While we at Brut Force have tried to remain term agnostic, siding with the way the artist prefers to describe his or her self, we think it’s important to acknowledge the terms and classifications that exist and that will ultimately in some form describe this art movement in retrospective.
So for the sake of our readers, we thought it might be beneficial to lay out some terms that are used to describe the artists that we cover. Ultimately, we agree that integration into the larger contemporary art world is the trajectory and the future. At present though, there is still disparity. Below, we’ll attempt to expose the tip of the iceberg for the blurred lines that exist today amongst these terms.

Art Brut

The label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet is specifically focused on artists that create art outside of the art establishment or the established academic tradition. It is a French term that translates to raw art. It was thoroughly explored by this year’s exhibition by the American Folk Art Museum entitled Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet.

Folk Art

Folk Art often gets lumped into the same conversation because of its often rough or naïve nature. Folk art is often not influenced by mainstream art world trends and is not typically created by members of the art establishment. A more stringent definition align folk art with that of indigenous people or tradespeople. Folk art is more closely linked to cultural identity than any of the other categories we discuss.

Naïve Art

Naïve art is art created by a person without formal art education. Naïve art is often grouped with outsider art as its definition may hint. Strict naivety is becoming more and more rare as the forms of self-education have spread.

Outsider Art

This, the most infamous of terms, was coined by Roger Cardinal in 1972 as a synonym to art brut. It is often applied as a catch-all term for self-taught art of all forms though, which draws some criticism. The term though is more lax in its definition typically applied to self-taught artists that outside of the mainstream art world. To make things more complicated, Jerry Saltz argues that there is no such thing as Outsider Art and that the distinction is “outmoded discrimination still in place.” For better or for worse, the term Outsider Art has proven an effective marketing tool for the Outsider Art Fair and other entities tied to the name in recent years.

Self-Taught (Contemporary Self-Taught)

This is the term that Brut Force is most comfortable with and most directly influences our curation and content strategy. The manifestation of the term self-taught and specifically contemporary self-taught art was explained by Duff Lindsay of the Lindsay Gallery as, today’s “artists are not rural, they’re not southern. They might be knowledgeable about art and folk art, but you would not consider them to be outsiders. They’re not isolated from the art world or the art marketplace.” According to Lindsay, it might be hard to tell that a self-taught contemporary did not receive a traditional art education, though in spirit, the work shares something with the visionary, inspirational, or vernacular characteristics that define the genre of outsider art.

The Continuum

One of our favorite articulations of this was applied by Leslie Umberger of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She states that if folk and self-taught are at opposite extremes of a single continuum, “with tradition at one pole and autonomy at the other, and all of it having developed apart from art world trends and markets. To discuss any particular artists you must consider where he or she falls along this line, each individual having varied amounts of traditional skills or ideas and personal vision.”
We look forward to continue to bring dialogue and discussion to the terms and the artists that make up this exciting field.

7/26/16


Should We Stop Using The Term ‘Outsider Art’?

Why are we calling community-oriented black artists like Kevin Sampson “outsiders”?

07/25/2016 09:42 am 09:42:29 | Updated 23 hours ago


Kevin Sampson
“I am not an outsider artist,” Kevin Sampson said.
He was speaking on a panel at the American Folk Art Museum in New York last week about sculptor Ronald Lockett alongside artist Michael Berube and Cara Zimmerman, a specialist in folk and outsider art at Christie’s. No one had explicitly labelled Sampson as such, but because he was invited to participate on the panel, it was surely implied.
“I have been represented by Cavin Morris Gallery for years,” Sampson continued. “My work showed in the Venice Biennale. It’s hard enough to be an African-American artist. Now we have to be ‘outsiders’”?
The conversation had shifted from discussing Lockett’s work to discussing the politics of how such work is categorized. Lockett was a black, self-taught artist living and working in Bessemer, Alabama. His work, made from tin, wire and found metals, explored resilience of the human spirit in times of political oppression and physical constraint. He died at just 33 years old from AIDS-related pneumonia. 


Kevin Sampson

In the strictest sense, Zimmerman explained, Lockett’s work belongs to the Birmingham-Bessemer School, along with his mentor and cousin Thornton Dial. But more often, perhaps when we get a little lazy, it’s described as “outsider” ― as in, outside the mainstream artistic institution.
Often, artists designated that way cannot personally respond to their opinion of the distinction. Frequently their work is discovered only after they’ve died, their artistic drive an obsessive secret they never expected would gain recognition. Or, oftentimes such artists live with developmental disabilities that limit their ability to discuss the way their work is referenced and catalogued. They make the work and leave its classification to curators, writers, dealers, etc.
But Kevin Sampson, a New-Jersey-based sculptor who makes enchanting molten ships and structures from found objects, memories, bones, wax and hair, is able and willing to speak on the subject. “The term ‘outsider’ is offensive,” he explained in a phone interview with The Huffington Post following the panel. “I just don’t even understand what it means.”


Kevin Sampson



Originally, the term designated an artist making work outside the context of art history, removed from the artistic institution, apart from the dialogue and marketplace of contemporary art. Basically, outsider artists were isolated, working in basements, prison cells, psychiatric wards or rural towns ― places where art was, at least in theory, born purely of the individual imagination.
“The term was great 50 years ago,” Sampson said. “But there is no more making art in isolation.” Thanks to globalization and the internet, Sampson argues, it’s virtually impossible to make art outside of some sort of dialogue. “Outsider artists made art outside of the art world and outside of a community. But me, making art outside of the community? That’s nonsense.”
Sampson’s father was a civil rights leader in Newark, New Jersey, so he grew up immersed in a household full of political dialogue and community engagement. Although he was interested in art from a young age, at his parents’ insistence, Sampson opted for a traditional college education at Lincoln University, where he majored in history. He dropped out after two years.


Kevin Sampson

Sampson’s father was friends with the mayor, who told him the city was looking to recruit more African American cops. His parents urged him to take the test to join the police force. “The rest is history,” Sampson said. At his mother’s recommendation, he used his drawing skills to become a composite sketch artist. He made over 1,000 drawings on the job over the course of 10 years, eventually serving as an expert witness in identifying suspects.
Suddenly, Sampson’s life was uprooted. His wife Pam was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Their son Kyle, born prematurely, died at 4 months old. Sampson’s cousin Carol Oliver contracted HIV/AIDS and died three months later. “When I started losing people, drawing didn’t work anymore,” he explained. “I had to use my hands.”
For Sampson’s first artwork, he went into his backyard, grabbed a log and started to carve it, not knowing at all what he was doing. His cousin had turned to the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria shortly before she died in the hope it would help provide a cure. Her mother gifted Sampson a variety of objects culled from her altars. They were tangible memories, everyday talismans, found objects imbued with intimacy.


Kevin Sampson

Sampson’s first piece was a ship, representing his cousin’s journey to the afterlife. He soon found himself creating a second, and then a third. “It was the late 80s. Everybody around me was dropping from either AIDS or crack,” he said. “I started doing these memorials for all the people dying around me. My wife thought they were from hell, there was so much darkness in them, but it was a way of working through the pain.”
After his wife died, Sampson quit the police force after 18 years to devote his life to art. He began teaching art at local community centers and making sculptures that he’d often donate to family members of people he’d loved and lost. The sculptures, more often exhibited in Newark homes than in public, incorporate elements including chili peppers, wax, pork ribs and old jewelry, archeological relics that melt together to form otherworldly vessels, instruments and steeples.
Initially, the art-making was a way to heal. “Your focus becomes so intense you enter this liminal space,” Sampson explained. “It’s good for the soul.” But eventually, the work transcended the tragic circumstances from which it was born. As Sampson described his journey: “First you look at yourself. Then you look at your neighborhood. Then you look at God.” 


Kevin Sampson

These days, Sampson describes his work as political above all else. “I live in Newark, New Jersey, a very poor city with all kinds of problems,” he said. “Problems with poverty and crime and education. And with Trump running for president...” he trailed off. “My father branded me so civil rights is in my blood.”
Sampson’s contemporary sculptures incorporate American flags and allusions to figures like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. He physically melds together public icons and personal artifacts, the residue of his loved ones and symbols of the nation, melting the boundaries between them in the process. In Sampson’s sculptural world, the boundaries between public and private, outside and inside, do not hold.
Perhaps the “outsider” label strikes Sampson as so ridiculous because of how important community is to his work. “I’m a community-based artist, an artist advocate,” he said. “I go out into the community. I talk, I read. I read 10 to 15 newspapers a day. I wind up building the pieces in my head, so when I start actually making the piece it’s already kind of built.”


Kevin Sampson

Sampson doesn’t particularly mind the term “self-taught artist,” but feels most affiliated with the more general title of contemporary artist. African-American contemporary artist works, too. He sees his work in conversation with an artist like Ronald Lockett, who also makes what Sampson referred to as “death-driven work.” He discussed Lockett’s work with fellow self-taught African-American artist Lonnie Holley, also often described as an outsider. And yet, the two artists found themselves exhibiting together in 2011 at the Venice Biennale, the most insider of art world affairs, discussing their relationship to Lockett’s work, an artist they both understood as speaking in their visual vernacular. 
“He’s 10 years younger than me, but we work alike,” Sampson said. “We both came out of the darkness to create out work. Lonnie and I were talking about his work one time; we noticed he used a lot of metal. We came to the conclusion that metal is flesh. All the metal pieces he did, I looked at it immediately and I thought this is flesh, this is skin.” 
During his lifetime, Lockett lived in isolation. To posthumously categorize his work as “outsider” seems like a cruel joke. In this moment, it becomes overwhelming just how preposterous a label like “outsider” can be, and perhaps has always been. 


Kevin Sampson

Also on HuffPost:

Outsider Art Fair 2016

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