Beginning in September, visitors to ARTworks in Beaufort will have the rare opportunity to see the work of self-taught artist Sam Doyle presented in the community where he spent his life and derived his inspirations. The Sam Doyle Celebration kicks off Sept. 22 with a special reception and runs through Oct. 6. All paintings in the exhibition are on loan from private collections.
Born in 1906 on St. Helena Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry, Doyle “fashioned his uniquely styled personal portraits and tributes with evangelical enthusiasm, blending ancestral Gullah lore and his devout Baptist faith into a rich multicultural impasto,” according to Gordon W. Bailey, an expert on Doyle’s work. Doyle attended Penn School (now the Penn Center), established in 1862 to provide educational and vocational skills to newly liberated slaves.
The artist filled his property — the “St. Helena Out Door Art Gallery — with portraits of people important to his community, such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., First Black Midwife, Penn Drummer (detail pictured right, from the collection of Gordon W. Bailey) and other icons. He also created two important series: “Penn” (school), which paid tribute to people associated with the historic center and “First” (achievements), which commemorated special events such as the first football game played on St. Helena Island.
“I have been intrigued by his art, and the man, since I moved to Beaufort 20 years ago,” said Claudette Humphrey, a board member for ARTworks. “It’s time that we have a Sam Doyle Celebration so the rest of the community can be inspired by his unique art style and talent. The children and the community need to be enriched by his creativity and the diversity of Gullah art.”
The Sam Doyle Celebration opening reception is Sept. 22 from 2 – 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance by calling (843) 379-2787. The reception includes special guests sharing firsthand stories about Doyle, a presentation by Victoria Smalls, Penn’s Center director of history and culture, and a buffet at the “Wellcome Table,” inspired by one of the artist’s paintings (pictured left, from the collection of Gordon W. Bailey).
On Oct. 10, the Penn Center will host Sam Doyle Night from 5 to 8 p.m., where guests can see the center’s Sam Doyle Collection and enjoy a student art show and sale. Tickets are $25. Call (843) 838-2432 for more information.
Related: Students invited to submit art for celebration.
The Sam Doyle Celebration is a partnership between ARTworks, Penn Center, the Red Piano Too gallery, and Gordon W. Bailey.
For more information about Doyle, the exhibition and related events, visit ARTworks’ website. For more information about Doyle’s life and work, visit the Foundation for Self Taught Artists website. View Sam Doyle’s work, Adlade, a Slave, which is in the South Carolina Arts Commission’s State Art Collection.